Hearings Begin for Teens Charged in Racist Attacks

Preliminary hearings began Monday in the case of a dozen teenagers charged in a series of racist attacks last year, including the murder of a Sakha native that was filmed with a cell phone camera.

The 13 suspects, including 12 minors, will stand trial for two murders and 10 attempted murders from August to October, Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said.

The suspects targeted dark-skinned foreigners, filmed the attacks and shared the footage via ICQ, Usachyova said.

One of the attacks they are charged with is the murder of Sakha native and tournament chess player Sergei Nikolayev, 46, who was stabbed to death by drunken football fans on Oct. 20, following a victory by the Spartak Moscow football club.

The suspects have been charged with premeditated murder, attempted murder and inciting ethnic hatred.

Judge Vladimir Usov of the Moscow City Court on Monday ordered a closed trial because all but one of the suspects are minors, Usachyova said. City Prosecutor Yury Syomin has said previously that the only adult suspect is 18 years old and that the others are 14 to 16 years old.

Usov set the opening trial date for July 28, Usachyova said.

Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes, said the case is unprecedented because the suspects are the first group prosecutors have acknowledged as carrying out "organized, large-scaled Nazi campaigns."

A preliminary hearing in the case of another racist attack is scheduled Thursday at the Moscow City Court, Usachyova said.

Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky were arrested in April 2007 on suspicion of killing Armenian businessman Karen Abramyan. Abramyan, 46, was stabbed 20 times on the evening of April 16 in southwest Moscow and died in the hospital.