Dozens of people bearing pictures of their dead relatives stood vigil yesterday outside the courthouse where prosecutors were to lay out their case in the first trial stemming from last September's bloody school seizure in the southern Russian town of Beslan, a raid that left more than 330 hostages dead.
Nur-Pashi Kulayev, who faces terrorism, murder and other charges, reportedly has confessed to participating in the Sept. 1-3 raid on School No. 1, but has insisted that he killed no one.
The seizure ended in mayhem when explosions went off, law enforcement forces waged pitched gun battles with militants and terrified children fled through bullets, broken glass and burning timbers. More than half of those killed were children.
Outside the Supreme Court of the North Ossetian republic, where Beslan is located, a couple of dozen policemen stood armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, and dozens more security officers were deployed nearby. Police officers inspected the boarded-up windows of a nearby building. The roads surrounding the courthouse were blocked to traffic, and a fire truck was parked outside the court building.
Kulayev was delivered to the court about an hour before the scheduled start of the hearings. He was driven in a police convoy straight into a closed courtyard, out of view of dozens of people standing outside the courthouse. Many held pictures of young children and adults who died in the tragedy.
Liza Matzgoyeva, 75, lost her 34-year-old son. She stood outside a side entrance arguing with a court official to be let in.
"I want to look him in the face. I want to see his face, look into it and see if he's a human or not," Matzgoyeva pleaded.
Some residents of Beslan said they were anticipating the trial with dread, fearing painful memories would be dredged up. Others said the trial was nothing more than a formality and an attempt by authorities to distract the public from the incompetence demonstrated by regional law enforcement, which allowed the 32 heavily armed militants to seize the school with relative ease.
Susanna Dudiyeva, 44, whose son died in the school seizure, heads the Beslan Mothers' Committee, which has criticized regional and federal authorities for incompetence, both in protecting the school and in investigating the attack. She said Kulayev would likely be convicted, but the whole trial, nevertheless, would only be a "spectacle."
Samtsayev Elbrus, a legal analyst and regional human rights expert, said officials were also seeking to use the trial to calm interethnic strife by tying Kulayev to international terror groups. Many Ossetians blame their historic region rivals, the Ingush, for the attack; many of the militants were Ingush.
If convicted, Kulayev could get up to life in prison. Survivors of the attack and others have called for the death penalty, but Russia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996 to join the Council of Europe.
"The women of Beslan want him for themselves. We'll take him in our own hands and show him proper punishment," said Rita Sydakova, 44, wringing her hands and tearing at the air. "We'll give him what he deserves."
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just