There was anger at the end of a year-long highly emotional trial as the sole surviving suspect from the Beslan school siege was jailed for life.
Nurpashi Kulayev was found guilty of murder and terrorism at a court in southern Russia. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial. Kulayev was one of 32 Chechen militants that took 1,300 hostages in a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan almost two years ago. The judge said he deserved the death penalty but the verdict was commuted as there is an official moratorium on capital punishment. The ruling comes after eight days during which Kulayev’s role in the attack was relayed to the court. Relatives of the victims were told that 16 hostages killed on the first day of assault died as a result of Kulayev’s actions. Outside the court, members of the Beslan Mother’s Committee criticised the verdict: “We don’t agree with the life sentence,” one woman said. “We think he should’ve been given the death penalty.” But not everyone agrees that he is the only person who should be held to account over what happened. Many survivors of the siege say Kulayev has been made a scapegoat for officials and a botched rescue operation. Others feel questions remain about how so many armed militants could get through so many checkpoints to take over a school. The militants demanded that Russian troops leave Chechnya as a condition for the release of the captives. After a three-day stand-off the siege ended in a bloodbath. More than half the 331 victims were children.