Grabovoi Found Guilty, Gets 11 Years

MTGrigory Grabovoi, standing in the prisoner's cage Monday at Tagansky District Court before the verdict was read.
Moscow's Tagansky District Court found cult leader Grigory Grabovoi guilty of 11 counts of fraud Monday and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, but not before the proceedings were delayed for two hours by a bomb threat, Interfax reported.

Grabovoi swindled followers and customers out of money and property "using methods of psychological pressure," the presiding judge said.

Grabovoi had pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying his business was connected to "political, nongovernmental, religious and scientific activities."

Prosecutors, who said he had bilked people out of money by promising to resurrect the dead, including children who died in the Beslan School No. 1 terrorist attack, had demanded a sentence of 12 years in prison.

Grabovoi had also sold information on how to treat terminal diseases and cure the incurable, prosecutors said.

Vyacheslav Makarov, Grabavoi's lawyer, called the verdict "unfair" and "illegal" and said they intended to appeal the court's decision.

Grabovoi's followers, several dozen of whom gathered outside the court, and his common-law wife dismissed the charges Monday, saying he had never promised to resurrect the dead.

"I attended a congress where mothers of [children who died in] Beslan were present," said Olga Filatova, 59. "He didn't promise them anything."

Another supporter, Valentina Azonova, 70, a pensioner, linked the charges against Grabovoi to his planned 2008 presidential bid.

"Once he put his name down for the presidential elections, a criminal case was immediately started against him," Azonova said.

Monday's session was interrupted as police evacuated the court building after they discovered an object resembling an old Soviet-made speaker at the building's main entrance.

The object had wires sticking out of it and two small bunches of flowers on top. City police said the box turned out to be a real speaker, RIA-Novosti reported.

Grabovoi first came to the attention of the national media in late 2002, when he offered to resurrect those who died in Moscow's Dubrovka Theater hostage-taking attack.

His web site makes no mention of any successful Dubrovka resurrections, but it did include a statement by Grabovoi that, if he were president in 2008, his first decree would be to ban death and criminally punish violators.