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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Terror verdict for Beslan suspect
Kulayev (foreground) in the dock on 16 May 2006
Kulayev admits taking part but denies killing anyone
The sole surviving suspect from the Beslan school siege committed an act of terrorism, a judge at a court in southern Russia has said.

The judge is reading out the verdict in the trial of Nur-Pashi Kulayev, a process which is likely to take several days before the sentence is announced.

He faces charges, including murder, over the 2004 attack in which more than 330 people died, many of them children.

The verdict is the culmination of a year-long highly emotional trial.

Over the last 12 months, the horrors of Beslan have been retold and relived in the tiny courtroom.

Hundreds of witnesses have shared their stories, often exploding with rage or collapsing in tears.

Mr Kulayev, who has admitted participating in the attack but denied killing anyone, has sat in the dock, silent and without any sign of emotion.

1 Sept 04: First day of term at Beslan's No 1 School
Chechen militants seize school, take over 1,000 hostages
Hostages packed into gym wired with explosives
3 Sept 04: Two blasts heard inside school
Two-hour battle as Russian special forces attack
More than 330 hostages killed
31 militants killed, Nur-Pashi Kulayev arrested

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg says the judge's remarks as he began reading the verdict indicate that he is likely to be found guilty.

"The court has established that Kulayev took part in an armed attack and a hostage-taking... that he committed murder against defenceless people," the AFP news agency quoted Tamerlan Aguzarov, chief justice of the high court in North Ossetia, as saying.

"He committed an act of terrorism with the aim of influencing the decisions of the authorities," he said.

Prosecutors have called for the death penalty. But as there is currently a moratorium on capital punishment in Russia, life imprisonment is more likely.

Cover-up claims

Mr Kulayev, a Chechen carpenter, is said to be the only survivor from a group of 32 Chechen separatists who held more than 1,000 children, parents and teachers hostage in the North Ossetia school for three days.

He narrowly avoided being lynched by local people after being discovered hiding underneath a lorry not far from the school after the siege ended in a bloody battle between hostage-takers and Russian troops.

Relatives of those killed in the Beslan siege hold pictures during the trial on 16 May 2006
Relatives and survivors say the full story is yet to be told

The end of his trial is unlikely to help the people of Beslan move on, our correspondent says.

Many in Beslan accuse the Russian authorities of a cover-up and maintain that senior Russian officials should be punished too, for allowing such a tragedy to happen.

Three Russian police officers accused of ignoring warnings of possible attacks in the run-up to the siege went on trial in March.

Ella Kesayeva, head of survivors' group Voice of Beslan, told local radio she hoped Mr Kulayev would clarify what happened.

"There is hope that he will still tell the truth, and therefore we need him to live," she said.

"The prosecutor has not dug down to the truth, because they have only one motive - to hide the facts of the security services' crimes... It is not only the terrorists who are to blame in the Beslan tragedy, but also the Federal Security Service," she said.

But Rita Sedakova, whose only daughter was shot in the siege, told the Associated Press news agency she disagreed.

"I demand that the scoundrel be shot," she said. "He has stolen my future."


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