Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Suspected Beslan Attacker Goes on Trial

APNur-Pashi Kulayev listening to the charges in the Vladikavkaz court Tuesday.
VLADIKAVKAZ -- Survivors of the Beslan school hostage crisis and relatives of the dead crammed into a courtroom Tuesday to catch a glimpse of the only man to go on trial for the terror attack that ended in the deaths of more than 330 people.

Nur-Pashi Kulayev watched impassively from the defendant's cage as prosecutors opened the trial by reading seemingly endless list of victims and relatives and listing the charges of terrorism and murder, among others.

"Everything they read today we saw with our own eyes," said Lyudmila Dzegoyeva, 33, one of the more than 1,200 hostages who were held Sept. 1-3 in a sweltering gymnasium at Beslan School No. 1 by more than 30 heavily armed militants.

Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel read aloud from a dictionary-sized tome of charges and evidence, much of which prosecutors say was compiled from hundreds of eyewitness statements.

Prosecutors read a detailed chronology of the events leading up to and including the seizure, which came on the first day of classes. They also listed in excruciating medical detail the injuries suffered by those wounded.

Most of the two dozen or so spectators in the small courtroom were women dressed in black and wearing head scarves. Many wiped tears from their eyes as the prosecutors spoke.

Before the trial began, Kulayev's appointed lawyer, Albert Pliyev, said he thought his client would get a fair trial. Asked if he feared being attacked by angry relatives for defending Kulayev, Pliyev replied: "Of course, there's fear."

In television footage last year, Kulayev was shown confessing to participating in the raid, but said he personally did not kill anyone.

He did not enter a plea Tuesday, answering only several routine questions from the judge, such as his occupation before the September raid. He told the judge he was unemployed.

Like many of those attending, Dzegoyeva said she believed the trial distracted attention from what should be a wider investigation. Critics say authorities were apparently derelict for failing to detect the preparations for the well-coordinated attack.

"This is all useless. What they need to do is find the guilty among themselves," Dzegoyeva said during a midday break.

As the court reconvened, several spectators yelled at Kulayev as he brushed his hair from his face. "Stand up! Look over here so we can see your eyes!" yelled one woman. "You're a beast!" another man shouted.

Later on, several women interrupted the proceedings, complaining about how long the reading was taking and saying that Kulayev could not have committed all the injuries being listed by prosecutors.

Shepel later defended the laborious process of reading lists of victims and injuries. "The point is that we have had 343 people killed, more 1,300 hostages, 900 eyewitnesses. It's a difficult process," Shepel told reporters. His count included the deaths of federal servicemen and emergency services workers.

If convicted, Kulayev could get up to life in prison.