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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Budanov Verdict Postponed

APBudanov peering out of the defendant's cage in the Rostov-on-Don courtroom Monday. The judge delayed a verdict Tuesday.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- The judge presiding over the trial of Colonel Yury Budanov, the first military officer charged with crimes against Chechen civilians, postponed the verdict Tuesday, saying the court had to consider the case further and that the suspect had to undergo a third psychiatric evaluation.

Budanov has admitted strangling 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva two years ago, but says he killed her in a rage while interrogating her because he thought she was a rebel sniper. Kungayeva's family denies the accusation, and says she was dragged from her home at night, raped and murdered during a drunken rampage by soldiers.

Budanov has been evaluated twice by psychiatrists. The first time, he was found sane, but the doctors who conducted the second examination found him insane at the time of the killing.

Judge Viktor Kostin on Tuesday said he had requested an additional court inquiry before making a ruling, and he ordered a new psychiatric examination. He adjourned the trial until Wednesday.

"I'm very glad the court made such a decision," the victim's lawyer, Abdulla Khamzayev said.

The suspect's lawyers were livid, saying Budanov was desperate for a verdict -- any verdict -- after repeated delays in the 18-month-old trial.

"He is in a critical moral condition, his nerves and blood pressure are at their limits," defense lawyer Anatoly Mukhin said. "He said, 'Let them convict me, I'll be as silent as a fish.'"

Budanov's wife, Svetlana, and oldest son, 15-year-old Valery, came to the trial from Ukraine on Tuesday expecting a verdict, and were distressed when none came.

The prosecutor in the case, Sergei Nazarov, recommended that Budanov be sentenced to three years in prison but be made eligible for immediate amnesty. Not only human rights advocates but even Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov objected that Budanov was being prosecuted too leniently.

He was replaced Monday, the day before the verdict was scheduled, by a new prosecutor who recommended some changes in the charges. The new prosecutor, Colonel Vladimir Milovanov, refused to reveal the changes to reporters.

"I can only say that there are differences of opinion about the work that Nazarov conducted," Milovanov said Tuesday.