[JURIST] A Russian judge on Tuesday said that Nurpashi Kulayev [Wikipedia profile] participated in the September 2004 Beslan school siege [BBC backgrounder; MosNews report], committing an act of terrorism, but has not yet issued a final verdict on Kulayev's guilt. Kulayev, who is the sole surviving attacker from the siege, pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to terrorism and murder charges, denied [JURIST report] killing anyone during the attack, and claimed that he was forced to participate in the siege by terrorists. Although prosecutors requested the death penalty [JURIST report], any such verdict would be changed into life imprisonment because the country has placed a moratorium on capital punishment. The judge began reading the verdict in the case Tuesday, a process which could last several days.
Critics of the trial, including survivors and victims' families, seek further investigation into the tragedy to uncover fault within the government's response, including disorganized medical care, lack of resources, and the use of heavy artillery before all hostages were rescued. The government admitted that negligence contributed to the effects of the tragedy, but did not implicate any specific government employees. The Voice of Beslan [advocacy website, in Russian], a group of activist survivors, spoke out against the reinstatement of the death penalty so that Kulayev can aid a probe into the siege. Reuters has more. MosNews has local coverage.