Beslan 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
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
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.