Supreme Court acquits radicals of terrorism

  • 2001-10-18
  • BNS
RIGA - Three Russian National Bolsheviks convicted of breaking into St. Peter's Church tower in Riga last year have been given reduced charges and jail terms by the Latvian Supreme Court.

The court overturned a lower court's verdict of terrorism and instead charged them with hooliganism Oct. 11.

Sergey Solovey and Maksim Zhurkin, originally sentenced to 15 years in jail, will have to serve six- and five-year terms, respectively. The third Russian, Dimitry Gafarov, was under-age when the offense was committed and received a one-year jail term. He could be set free in a month.

The three men, who are members of the National Bolshevik organization, had appealed an April 30 verdict by Riga Regional Court convicting them of terrorism and illegal border crossing.

Prosecutor Viktors Mackovskis said he has not decided whether to appeal the new sentence or not. Lawyers for the defendants, however, said they were satisfied with the verdict and would not appeal.

The three Russians broke into St. Peter's Church Nov. 17, one day ahead of Latvia's Independence Day, brandished a grenade-like object and hung the organization's flag out of the church tower. They surrendered shortly afterward to local police.

Solovey told the court the investigation of the case and the lower court's verdict was "political reprisal against people holding different views." He added the witnesses in the case were not objective and reiterated that the action at St. Peter's Church was a non-violent, political event.

Solovey and Zhurkin pleaded not guilty on all charges except Gafarov, who pleaded guilty to an illegal border crossing but not the terrorism charge. The leader of the local National Bolshevik branch, Vladimir Moskovtsev, was also convicted but given a suspended sentence.

Defense lawyers argued that the three had violated Latvia's visa and border regulations but emphasized the offenses were administrative and not criminal.

The three did illegally leave a train bound for the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in the Latvian town of Rezekne and stayed in Latvia without the appropriate documentation, the legal team added.

The defense also rejected the terrorism charges, which it claimed were based on a single piece of evidence - the fake grenade.