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 Beslan terrorist sentenced - Russia

Latest NewsBeslan terrorist sentenced
Russian Information Agency Novosti


MOSCOW (Yury Filippov, RIA Novosti political commentator). -- North Ossetia's Supreme Court sentenced Nurpashi Kulayev, the only surviving Beslan terrorist, to life imprisonment.

It was the harshest sentence possible, with a moratorium on death penalty, which Russia introduced as soon as it joined the Council of Europe more than ten years ago - so State Prosecutor Nikolai Shepel had demanded capital punishment for the defendant in a symbolic move.

The Beslan tragedy of September 2004 came as Russia's most atrocious terror act. A terrorist gang of 32 seized a secondary school in North Ossetia during an official gathering on the academic year start, September 1, to take 1,128 hostages. Children and their parents were kept with no food and drinking water for three days before the suspense came to its bloody denouement. As a result 186 children and 145 adult hostages died, and 728 civilians and 55 law-enforcement officers were injured. Another twelve officers and a local civilian who was helping with hostage rescue met violent death as the building was taken by storm. The 31 terrorists who perished in the assault are logically kept out of the casualty list.

Kulayev, 25 - the only gang survivor, was a rank-and-file paramilitary. As he alleged during his trial, he had joined the school-taking force against his will. Claims of innocence did not help him. The court found sufficient proof of ...

the defendant being guilty of terrorism, murders, banditry, attempt on a policeman's life, hostage taking, and illegal acquisition, possession and storage of arms and explosives.

A terrorist war declared on Russia several years ago culminated in the Beslan terror act. Just as the September 11 tragedy, it resounded worldwide to speed up the elaboration of harsh anti-terror policies in the country that was victim to aggression.

There are grounds to assume that the Russian anti-terror cause acquired a smooth arrangement and became uncompromising as late as after the Beslan horror. Too many were terrorists' previous psychological victories, from which followed actual victories - suffice it to mention the drama of ten years ago in Budyonnovsk, in European Russia's south. Shamil Basayev's gang, which seized the town hospital, held public negotiations with the then federal Prime Minister and went off practically unscathed, the Russian government complying with its demands.

The Beslan bandits, who followed the same Basayev's orders, might have counted on the Budyonnovsk situation re-enacted. They did not make whatever demands at first, and were only building up the suspense. A majority of television companies based in Russia and all over the world were live-casting the Beslan developments for several days in a global horror show, a massive psychological attack hard to repulse. Significantly, Russia made a legislative prohibition of anti-terror action live casts quite soon after the Beslan tragedy. Regional anti-terrorist centers were established countrywide under unified command. The next twelve months saw a somewhat belated domestic political reform, aimed to consolidate the state and the population.

Did we draw proper lessons out of the bloodshed? True, Russia has never again seen a terror act of a comparable scope. Russia shifted from defense to attack. We can even say that there was a turning point in its anti-terror war - the warfare is no longer hitting civilians so hard as it did when terrorists had the chance to blow up houses with residents asleep in the dead of night, seize schools and booby-trap passenger liners. Be all that as it may, Beslan came to Russia as a tremendous psychological injury still to be healed. The bereaved Beslan mothers, live symbols of the nation's pain, cannot to this day put up with what they came through and see just why the tragedy became possible at all. The federal Prosecutor General's office is still investigating the terror act in all its aspects. A parliamentary commission that is carrying on a parallel investigation has to this day made only a draft version of its basic report.

Much more time will pass before Russia heals the Beslan wounds. Yet justice will eventually win. The Nurpashi Kulayev verdict has come as yet another proof of its triumph.

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