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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Lambastes Beslan Defendant

APMothers of victims of the Beslan attack conferring in court Wednesday.
VLADIKAVKAZ -- The judge reading the verdict against the sole surviving alleged militant in the Beslan school hostage seizure said Wednesday that the defendant was one of the cruelest of the attackers.

North Ossetian regional Supreme Court Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov recounted witness testimony from the trial, and said it proved Nurpashi Kulayev was "one of the most ferocious bandits" involved in the three-day school siege in September 2004 that left 331 people dead, more than half of them children.

Yet, on the second day of the verdict reading, which is sure to find Kulayev guilty on all counts, many survivors and their relatives still had doubts about who was responsible.

"Who killed more people -- the terrorists or government troops?" asked Elvira Tuayeva, who had been held hostage in the school and lost her son and daughter.

Aguzarov said witnesses recalled that Kulayev had beaten them and the children, and had not allowed them to drink during the ordeal.

But Ella Kesayeva, head of the Voice of Beslan group, said she had not heard direct testimony "that Kulayev had shot at someone or killed someone."

Relatives of the 331 victims allege authorities are covering up information about the siege, when some 30 attackers seized the school and demanded that Russian forces end their fight against Chechen rebels.