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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Suspect Should Be Put to Death, Shepel Says

Itar-TassNurpashi Kulayev listening to the proceedings from a glass cage in the North Ossetian Supreme Court on Thursday.
NALCHIK -- Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel on Thursday demanded the death penalty for the man suspected of being the sole surviving attacker of the Beslan school attack. Victims' mothers went on hunger strike, accusing authorities of rushing the trial.

The North Ossetian Supreme Court could deliver a verdict in the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev by the end of the month, a prosecutor's spokesman said.

With the trial now in its ninth month, Shepel told the court that Kulayev should be executed, something that many survivors and relatives of victims of the attack have repeatedly called for.

Kulayev, who faces terrorism, murder and other charges, reportedly has confessed to participating in the raid but has insisted that he killed no one.

"Based on the sum of the charges presented, I request that you pass a sentence of capital punishment," Shepel said in televised comments that were met with applause by observers in the courtroom.

Despite Shepel's request, it was unclear whether Kulayev could be executed since Russia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996 when it joined the Council of Europe. Many Russians support capital punishment, and some government officials have proposed lifting the moratorium for convicted terrorists.

Shepel's comments appeared to signal that the trial was in its final chapters. Closing statements -- including remarks by Kulayev -- could begin as early as next week, said Sergei Prokopov, a spokesman for Shepel, and the court could render a verdict by the end of February.

Relatives of victims of the attack have diligently attended the proceedings in Vladikavkaz, often interrupting proceedings with jeers, sobs or angry accusations. On at least two occasions, relatives have tried to attack officials testifying or even Kulayev, who has watched from a glass cage.

After Thursday's proceedings, Ella Kesayeva, who heads the Voice of Beslan, a group of mothers whose children died, said she and six others were staging a hunger strike to protest what she said was authorities' efforts to end the Kulayev trial prematurely.

The group has demanded that the chief of the Federal Security Service and other top officials testify, including the former president of Ingushetia, where some of the Beslan attackers came from.

"Those whom we consider responsible for our children's death will escape justice, and our tragedy will be forgotten once the trial ends," Kesayeva said.

Meanwhile, Leonid Roshal, the pediatrician who was involved in hostage negotiations during the Beslan attack, repeated his accusations that the Kulayev trial was a farce.

Roshal, who testified Tuesday, said that those attending the trial were trying to indict him instead of Kulayev.

"They hear only what they want to hear," Roshal told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Separately, Ella Pamfilova, the head of the presidential human rights commission, said Thursday that Russia should abolish the death penalty, despite most Russians' support of capital punishment.