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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Describes Beslan Nightmare

VLADIKAVKAZ — The judge presiding over the trial of the sole surviving suspected attacker in the Beslan tragedy on Thursday read witness testimony on the horrific conditions inside the school, describing the increasingly cruel behavior of the hostage-takers as the three-day crisis wore on.

As Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov read the verdict against Nurpashi Kulayev for a third day, victims' relatives said they believed Kulayev was guilty but expressed frustration that the yearlong trial had failed to reveal all those responsible for the 331 deaths.

"There is no doubt of Kulayev's guilt, because he was among the rebels, but there is no witness testimony that he shot anyone," said Murat Kaboyev, a member of a public commission established to investigate the tragedy.

"But of course Kulayev is guilty," Kaboyev said, adding that the defendant had been seen among the attackers in a room where about 20 men were shot dead early in the crisis.

Aguzarov read a statement to prosecutors from a former hostage he identified only by her last name, Atayeva, who said that Kulayev had beaten her with the butt of an automatic rifle and had refused to allow her son to drink - the only testimony so far of Kulayev's direct role in abusing the hostages.

Aguzarov read victims' accounts of the hostage-takers growing increasingly nervous and aggressive. By the second day, they were refusing to let the more than 1,200 captives leave the stiflingly hot sports hall where they were held to go to the bathroom. They refused the hostages water, and many resorted to drinking urine to try to slake their thirst.

"I still have not learned the truth from the trial. I wanted to know who caused the first explosions and why my husband was killed. There is no such information and I think the authorities are purposely covering it up," said Olga Kravchenko, 74, whose husband had worked as a janitor at the school.

Ella Kesayeva, the leader of the Voice of Beslan activist group, said she was worried that once Kulayev's trial was over, authorities would drag out what they have called the main Beslan investigation, which is supposed to establish all the circumstances surrounding the tragedy — not just Kulayev's role. That investigation has been extended until July 1.

"There was premeditated murder of people by the Russian special services in Beslan," she said. "This is not [just] negligence. When people ran to the cafeteria after the initial explosions, militants put them in the windows as shields and Russian troops killed them. But nothing has been said about this in the trial," Kesayeva said.

She also said her group had asked the prosecutor handling the Beslan trial, Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel, to provide a photograph of a militant who was alleged to have helped carry out the car bombing Wednesday that killed a senior police official and six other people in Ingushetia.