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#5 - JRL 7011
January 9, 2003
Secret videotape to help Nord-Ost victims

The defence team representing those who suffered in the October terror attack on the Nord-Ost musical says it has obtained videotape evidence showing what happened inside the theatre building during the 3 days of the hostage drama. The lawyers intend to use the footage made by the hostage-takers as additional evidence of the unspeakable moral suffering that the hostages were forced to endure.

Igor Trunov, the lawyer representing the terror victims, reported on Thursday that the defence intends to play the tape during the examination into the suits filed by the former hostages and the relatives of those who died during and after the storming against the Moscow government, seeking multi-million dollar compensation in moral and material damages. The hearings are to be held in the Tverskoi inter-municipal court of Moscow on January 16 and 17.

Apart from the videotape that, according to Trunov, ''has not yet appeared anywhere'', the defence has at its disposal several other important pieces of evidence. Some of those, in the lawyers opinion, may even be considered secret, which may prompt the court to announce the hearings be closed to the press.

On Thursday Trunov filed four new suits on behalf of former hostages and relatives of those who died in the attack. The preliminary hearing into those suits is scheduled for January 16, after which the court will examine the 24 filed earlier. On the following day 21 more claims will be examined.

The total number of suits filed against the Moscow city government has now reached 52. The former hostages and relatives of those who died in the attack have calculated their suffering at amounts ranging from $500 to $1,000,000. Many of them are demanding compensation in connection with the loss of a breadwinner, which is to be calculated individually in each case on the basis of the salary of the deceased.

The first lawsuits against the mayors office were filed at the end of November and early December last year. By the end of December the Tverskoi court had initiated legal proceedings into 34 suits. On January 4 another 10 were filed, and the total amount of compensation sought by the ex-hostages reached $47,581,000.

Surprisingly, Judge Marina Gorbachyova initially refused to instigate legal proceedings into the 10 new suits filed last Saturday. Igor Trunov, amazed by that decision, said the motives behind it were unclear, since the same judge earlier started legal proceedings on the other 38 suits. Trunov added that the plaintiffs were not only Muscovites, some of them had arrived from the regions, in particular, from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East; some of them came with children. Protesting against the decision the defence team appealed to the president of the Tverskoi court for assistance. Later in the day the court agreed to initiate legal proceedings.

Among the plaintiffs are residents of Moscow, Podolsk, Istra, Perm, Neftegorsk, and some of them have filed claims on behalf of minors. Earlier Trunov did not rule out that later the court might decide to examine all the claims filed by the Nord-Ost hostages jointly. Incidentally, in this respect the plaintiffs defence and the Moscow government see eye to eye.

In the meantime, the vice-mayor of Moscow, Valery Shantsev, commenting on reports of the new claims filed against the city government, said: ''We do not feel guilty [for what happened in October in Moscow]. We did everything that needed to be done. We are awaiting the ruling of the court, which is to establish the guilt.'' The official emphasized that the city authorities had done everything they were obliged to do in the wake of the Nord-Ost hostage drama, and all the former hostages and relatives of those who died during and after the theatre storming had received compensation paid from the city budget.

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