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Chechen Separatist on Trial as Terrorist

Russia: Warlord Salman Raduyev, accused in an attack in which 78 died, also faces charges of banditry, hostage-taking and other crimes.

November 16, 2001|Associated Press

MAKHACHKALA, Russia — Chechen separatist warlord Salman Raduyev went on trial Thursday in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan on charges of terrorism in connection with an armed attack that killed 78 people.

Raduyev, the most prominent Chechen rebel to be arrested and tried so far, also faces charges of banditry, hostage-taking, organization of murders and illegal armed formations.

Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov called the trial "a demonstration of the triumph of justice over terrorism."

"We will show the whole world that terrorism can be fought not only with weapons, but also through the force of justice," he said on the eve of the trial.

Raduyev's best-known attack was on the southern town of Kizlyar in 1996, when he and his comrades took hundreds of hostages at a local hospital and then used some of them as human shields to escape back into Chechnya.

The militants were blocked by Russian troops near the Chechen border, where an eight-day gun battle raged before Raduyev successfully slipped back into Chechnya. The indictment said 78 Russian soldiers, police officers and civilians were killed during the raid.

Raduyev was simply obeying orders, said his lawyer, Lomali Yakhiayev. The lawyer did not specify who gave the orders, but Raduyev has claimed he was following instructions from the late Chechen leader Dzhokar Dudayev.

Raduyev also faces charges in connection with an explosion in southern Russia in 1997 and taking officers hostage in 1996. He was arrested during a special military operation in the Chechen town of Novogroznensky in March 2000.

The trial opened under heavy security in Dagestan, a republic bordering Chechnya, and is expected to last at least two months, Ustinov said.

Three other defendants in the Kizlyar raid were being tried alongside Raduyev.

Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya after the 1994-96 war with separatists. They returned two years ago after Chechnya-based militants invaded Dagestan, and after a series of deadly apartment bombings in Russia blamed on Chechen militants.

Though Moscow claims to control most of Chechnya, armed clashes and allegations of human rights violations are frequent.

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