Beslan Group is Called Extremist

A court on Monday is to review a prosecutor's request that a group of Beslan survivors and their relatives be outlawed as extremist.

Acting Ingush Prosecutor Magomed Aushev wrote in his complaint that the Voice of Beslan broke the law on extremism by making "false accusations" against President Vladimir Putin as "an accomplice of terrorism" in an open letter, according to a copy of the lawsuit posted on the Voice of Beslan's web site.

The 2005 letter, addressed to "Everyone sympathetic to Beslan's tragedy" and posted on the group's web site, says "none of the acts of terrorism that occurred during Putin's presidency has been investigated properly" and that Putin has become "the guarantor for the terrorists" by not punishing senior officials for the botched Beslan rescue operation. More than 330 people died, most as special forces tried to rescue them during the final chaotic hours of the 2004 hostage taking at the Beslan school.

"We are surprised to find out that our right to demand a fair investigation of the Beslan tragedy has been declared extremist," Voice of Beslan founder Ella Kesayeva said by telephone from Vladikavkaz.

Kesayeva, whose daughter survived the attack, said she had been summoned to appear in a Nazran court on Monday. She said she had asked prosecutors to move the case to Vladikavkaz, where the Voice of Beslan was registered before it was disbanded by North Ossetia's Supreme Court last month in a separate lawsuit.

Vladislav Svetostov, a spokesman for a Nazran prosecutor, declined to comment about the extremist case ahead of the hearings. He defended the complaint, though, saying prosecutors in all regions are supposed to monitor the media to make sure that nothing illegal is published.

The Voice of Beslan was formed as a nongovernmental organization to raise awareness about the attack two years ago. Kesayeva led the group until the North Ossetian court upheld a lawsuit by another NGO with the same name last month.

Kesayeva accused the authorities of using the latest lawsuit to try to silence critical Beslan residents.

When the law on extremism was passed several years ago, human rights groups expressed concern that it might be used to go after Kremlin critics.