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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 14:13 GMT
Russian killer colonel faces retrial
Yury Budanov
Budanov will remain in custody until the new trial
Russia's Supreme Court has overturned a military court ruling which cleared an army colonel of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman.

The judges ordered a retrial of Yury Budanov, who was ruled to have been insane when he strangled Kheda Kungayeva in March 2000.

Colonel Budanov admitted to the killing but said it was carried out in a fit of rage.

He was committed to a psychiatric hospital in December, but military prosecutors appealed against the ruling.

I thank the court and the courageous people from the military prosecutor's office
Visa Kungayev
Victim's father
The case has been widely seen abroad as a test of whether Moscow is willing to clamp down on human rights abuses by its forces in Chechnya.

Colonel Budanov is the highest ranking officer to be tried for crimes against civilians in Chechnya.

The Supreme Court said he would remain in custody until the new trial.

'Just decision'

Judges cited irregularities in the original trial in the North Caucasus Military District court, such as the failure to take account of the accused's ability to lead his men and participate in military action, Interfax news agency said.

It also said the military court had not considered the fact that the police had no information about the family's involvement in rebel activities.

The victim's father said he was surprised and pleased by the ruling.

"It's a just decision, I wasn't expecting it," Visa Kungayev said.

"I thank the court and the courageous people from the military prosecutor's office."

Lack of sympathy

Kungayeva's family says she was taken from her home at night, raped and murdered during a drunken rampage by Russian soldiers.

Colonel Budanov said he had suspected her of being a rebel sniper who had killed some of his comrades.

Correspondents say there is little sympathy for the suffering of civilians in Chechnya, following the siege of a Moscow theatre last October by Chechen rebels.

However, human rights activists remain concerned that the original verdict may have sent out the message that Russian soldiers can commit crimes in Chechnya without fear of punishment.

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