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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nalchik Remains Cremated

Authorities have cremated the bodies of dozens of suspected militants killed in a 2005 attack on government buildings in Nalchik, according to a document obtained Wednesday, adding to controversy over a law that allows the government to withhold the remains of terror suspects.

At least 139 people died in the bold daytime assault on law enforcement and government offices in the capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic, including 95 suspected attackers, according to official tallies.

Officials have refused to release the bodies to their relatives, citing a law forbidding the burial of suspected terrorists. News of the cremations was likely to inflame further anger among relatives, who demanded the return of their loved ones' bodies in prolonged protests in Nalchik.

A group of relatives last year lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, arguing their rights were being violated.

Responding to the court's request, the government said it had cremated the bodies of the 95 suspects in June, according to the document The Associated Press received from lawyers with the Russian Justice Initiative, who are representing the relatives. Previously, authorities had made no official statement about what was done with the bodies.

The Strasbourg-based Court had no comment late Wednesday, and a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said she could not immediately confirm the statement.

Human rights groups have condemned the law, arguing that it was arbitrary to pronounce suspects killed in attacks terrorists in the absence of a court ruling. They also say it was inhumane to deprive relatives of a proper burial of their loved ones.

The Constitutional Court is to consider next week whether the law is constitutional.

"Russia has acted in an absolutely wild manner," said Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial.

Orlov suggested such treatment of terrorism suspects by the government would further stoke tensions and anger in the North Caucasus.