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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Mothers Camp in Court

For MTSusanna Dudiyeva, center, speaking outside the North Ossetian Supreme Court after the protest ended Wednesday.
VLADIKAVKAZ -- Beslan mothers staged a 24-hour protest inside the North Ossetian Supreme Court to demand that senior officials be prosecuted over the school hostage-taking in September.

The 15 women, who spent the night in the courtroom where the only surviving Beslan suspect is on trial, left on Wednesday afternoon even though their request to meet with Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel, who is handling the case, was not fulfilled.

Shepel, who was in Vladikavkaz, had agreed to meet with the women at noon, Interfax reported.

"From now on, we will distrust and disrespect Shepel. We are leaving the court, but we will continue our fight," said Marina Pak, her eyes moist with tears. Pak's son died at Beslan.

Beslan residents arrived in Vladikavkaz on buses to support the protesters Wednesday. They were waiting on the hot, sunny street outside the courthouse.

Susanna Dudiyeva, the head of the Beslan Mothers' Committee and one of the women who spent the night in the court, called the protest "one more step toward getting a fair investigation."

"Those in power don't want to help us. Shepel should have met with us, considering the fact he is here," said Dudiyeva, who lost her 13-year-son, Zaur.

Shepel said on state-run Rossia television later Wednesday that he was ready to meet with the mothers and answer their questions, but he did not say when the meeting would take place.

The women said their protest was not against Beslan suspect Nurpashi Kulayev, who went on trial on May, but against the way the investigation of the Sept. 1-3 hostage-taking has been conducted.

"We want justice and for all people to be held accountable for their actions or lack of actions that led to the terrible consequences," Dudiyeva said Tuesday night, reading a letter addressed to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.

"The Russian prosecutor's office is putting all the blame on Kulayev and the heads of the district police, ignoring evidence that other people were involved," she read.

Kulayev has admitted to participating in the raid but pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism, murder and attacking law enforcement officers. Five senior policemen have been charged with criminal negligence in connection with the attack, but the Beslan mothers said higher-level officials must share the blame.

Yana Voitova / For MT

Marina Pak

Many Beslan residents believe that the hostage-takers managed to cross over from neighboring Ingushetia and reach the school only by handing out bribes to police officers. The mothers also accuse the federal authorities of failing to do their duty to protect citizens from terrorism and insist that senior officials in the Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry should be held accountable for how the crisis was handled.

Speaking to reporters outside the court Tuesday, Dudiyeva said President Vladimir Putin should also bear responsibility.

Shepel repeated on Wednesday that no evidence had been found that implicated officials in the attack and that it was too soon to prosecute anyone else because the investigation was still ongoing.

He left open the possibility that more people might be charged.

Meanwhile, children who were among the hostages testified in the court for the first time on Tuesday.

NTV television showed Alan Tzgoyev, a boy of about 12, telling the court that he had seen the defendant, Kulayev, in the middle of the gym where assailants held hundreds of children, teachers and parents hostage.

Asked what Kulayev was doing, Tzgoyev said he told people who stood up to return to their places and sit down.

The children testified with their parents' permission and a psychiatrist was present, NTV reported.

More than 330 people, more than half of them children, died in the attack, which ended when explosions that the authorities say were triggered by the hostage-takers prompted special forces to storm the building.

The Beslan Mothers' Committee has said that Putin is not welcome to attend upcoming commemorations for the anniversary of the attack. Beslan School Siege