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#7 - JRL 7032
gazeta.ru
January 24, 2003
Nord-Ost claims fail, Strasbourg looms

On Thursday the Tverskoi district court in Moscow rejected the first 3
claims for compensation by the survivors of the Nord-Ost siege and the
families of those killed by a knockout gas used in the storming of the
theatre.

Judge Marina Gorbacheva rejected the three suits in the unprecedented case
claiming compensation from the Moscow city authorities over last October's
siege in which separatist Chechen guerrillas seized almost 800 hostages in
the Dubrovka theatre centre. The judge will decide on the remaining 21
claims at a later date, the court heard. The victims' lawyer has said he
plans to appeal.

The suits were the first in a batch of claims brought against the Moscow
authorities in line with a law that states the victims of a terrorist
attack can seek compensation from the local authorities where the attack
takes place. The survivors and the relatives of those who died after the
Nord-Ost tragedy are claiming compensation for moral damages suffered
during the 3-day siege and also for the loss of income, or a breadwinner,
for those who died.

The court turned down the three suits brought by the Khramtsov and Karpov
families and by Zoya Chernetsova. They all lost their relatives as a result
of the hostage-taking. They said they were outraged by the court's refusal
to grant their lawsuits and they plan to appeal to a higher court. They
also voiced anger at how the trial proceeded. ''We felt like helpless
hostages, like our relatives who were at the Dubrovka (theatre),'' Tatyana
Karpova, mother of the late Aleksandr Karpov, a songwriter and author of
the Russian version of the musical Chicago, told journalists. Karpova
stressed that financial compensation is not a goal in itself.

Valentina Khramtsova, who lost her husband, echoed those sentiments: ''The
Moscow government admitting its responsibility for what happened, rather
than the money, is important for me. If they cannot ensure our security,
let them pay or resign.'' She noted that so far, ''no Moscow government
officials have resigned or admitted any failure in doing his job''. ''I
would like the Russian and Moscow governments to admit their guilt and
offer compensation to those who have not filed lawsuits. This is necessary
for people to know that the government remembers them and takes care of
them,'' Khramtsova said.

The claimants can now appeal the rejections to the Moscow city court within
10 days. Igor Trunov, legal adviser to all claimants, said the rejections
are likely to mean that the other suits will be turned down, as well. ''One
decision is enough to understand what will happen to the rest of the
suits,'' he said. Nevertheless, he plans to appeal to the city court. After
that the claimants have said they are ready to go to the Supreme Court and
then the European Court in Strasbourg.

Trunov had earlier filed a request challenging the Tverskoi courts
authority. He insisted that the case must be heard in the Supreme Court of
Russia, doubting the impartiality of a Moscow court, partially financed by
the mayors office the defendant in the case. After a brief discussion
the court ruled that it had no grounds for satisfying the lawyers request.
At the same time, though, Judge Marina Gorbacheva agreed to make the
hearings open to the press and to move them to a larger courtroom, so that
the press could attend them, but maintained a ban on filming inside the
courtroom.

Requests to summon a number of high profile witnesses public figures
involved in negotiations at the theatre as well as the use of video
footage shot by the terrorists during the 3-day siege to emphasize the
conditions and moral and physical suffering endured by the hostages were
also turned down by the court.

Another 37 compensation suits are to be heard on 10 February and 13
February. Since it began hearing the 24 suits on 16 January, the Tverskoi
court has heard testimony by 15 claimants on 11 suits, but has limited its
ruling to three suits, as some of the claimants were unable to attend the
hearing. The compensation claims had reached almost $60 million, a sum that
would significantly affect the finances of the Moscow city authorities.

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