Marshals Say Group Beat Them

The Federal Court Marshals Service has accused a support group formed by relatives of those killed in the 2004 Beslan school siege of assaulting seven of its officers and one judge, one of the group's leaders said Monday.

Ella Kesayeva, who co-chairs Voice of Beslan, said she submitted Monday a written denial of the attack to the Federal Court Marshals Service branch in Vladikavkaz. She said the service accused her and two other group members of involvement.

The accusations are part of a campaign to label the Voice of Beslan an extremist organization to allow the authorities to ban it, Kesayeva said.

She added that she did not know the source of the accusation and that no criminal case had yet been opened. In fact, she said, the first she heard of any assault was in the summons mailed to her by the marshals service last week.

Voice of Beslan believes the government should take responsibility for the deaths of more than 300 people at School No. 1 after what the group says was a bungled attempt to rescue more than 1,000 hostages being held by Islamist extremists. More than half of those killed were children.

"We have never broken the law in any way," Kesayeva said by telephone from the court marshals branch on Monday.

The court marshals service could not be reached Monday.

During a related court hearing last year, mothers of the Beslan victims ransacked a courtroom. It was unclear if the investigation into alleged cases of assault was related to that protest.

Kesayeva said one of the people she and her colleagues are accused of attacking was Judge Zaurbek Tavitov, who works at a district court in Beslan. Tavitov could not be reached for comment Monday.

Kesayeva said the accusations were linked to another case, in which Voice of Beslan faces charges of extremism after writing an open letter accusing President Vladimir Putin of covering up the real version of events.

Kesayeva said she did not know when that case would open.