Beslan hostage-taker sentenced to life in jail
Nurpashi Kulayev, a Chechen carpenter born in 1980, was found guilty on all charges, which included terrorism and murder.india Updated: May 26, 2006 15:13 IST
A Russian court sentenced the only surviving Beslan hostage-taker to life in prison on Friday for his part in the bloody 2004 school siege that killed 331 people.
Nurpashi Kulayev, a Chechen carpenter born in 1980, was found guilty on all charges, which included terrorism and murder. He had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had requested the death penalty for Kulayev, but Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov said a current moratorium on capital punishment ruled that out.
"(Kulayev) deserves the death sentence but because the Russian government has introduced a moratorium on carrying out death sentences, I sentence him to life imprisonment," Aguzarov told the court.
Relatives of those who died in the siege, more than half of whom were children, shouted at the defendant and cried after the verdict was announced.
Prosecutors told Russian news agencies they approved of the decision, but Kulayev maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
"This is all invented tales," he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying in words practically inaudible over the shouts of women in the courtroom.
Itar-Tass agency quoted his lawyer as saying he would appeal the verdict.
"During the course of the court hearing, no evidence of Kulayev's participation in the crimes he was accused of was presented," Albert Pliyev was quoted as saying.
Kulayev was among a group that took 1,300 hostages in a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan on Sept. 1, 2004. After a three-day stand-off the siege collapsed in a bloodbath.
The hostage-takers demanded that Russian troops leave Chechnya as a condition for the release of the hostages, and refused to allow the children and adults herded into the school's sports hall to drink or go to the toilet.
Many of the victims were almost impossible to identify, their bodies severely burned when the sports hall's roof collapsed in flames.
Aguzarov rejected Kulayev's claim that he had been forced to take part, and said witnesses' evidence contradicted his insistence that he had never threatened or harmed any hostages.