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Foreigners sue Russian government over Nord-Ost drama

: Reuters

: Lera Arsenina  : Reuters

A Moscow court has initiated proceedings into three suits filed by foreign nationals who have lost their relatives in the wake of a terrorist attack on the Nord-Ost musical theatre last October. Earlier this year over 60 suits have been brought against Moscow city authorities by Russians who suffered from the attack, but Russian courts have turned them all down. Lawyers assume that the courts attitude to the foreigners could be different.

Lawyer Igor Trunov, who has filed the compensation suits on behalf of Nord-Ost survivors and relatives of the hostage drama victims has told Gazeta.Ru that new suits had been brought by two US nationals, one Ukrainian and one Kazakh citizen on behalf of families of Sandy Booker, Grigory Burban, Natalia Yufteyeva and Alexander Lityaga, who died after Russian security services stormed the theatre building using powerful narcotic gas that knocked out both the terrorists and the hostages.

Unlike Russians who are suing the Moscow city government, the foreigners seek compensation in moral and material damages from the federal authorities. Their claims are based on the provisions of the Article 17 of the law on countering terrorism, which provides that the region where a terrorist act is perpetrated should pay compensation to the victims of the attack from its budget means. The claimants seek the total of $8 million in compensation from the Russian Finance Ministry.

Lawyer Trunov believes that the Basmannyi district court which is to consider the claims may pass a ruling different from that passed by Tverskoi inter-municipal court after considering the first 23 of 61 suits brought against the Moscow city government by Russian Nord-Ost survivors. At the same time, Trunov does not rule out an out-of-court settlement in foreigners case.

The first installment of 24 suits filed by the theatre siege survivors and relatives of Nord-Ost victims was examined by the Tverskoi inter-municipal court of Moscow in January. After a week of hearings Judge Marina Gorbacheva rejected the first three suits, brought by the Khramtsov and Karpov families and by Zoya Chernetsova, who sought $4 million in compensation for moral and material damages from the Moscow government.

The lawyers then decided to suspend examination of the other lawsuits, and filed an appeal to the Moscow City Court. The appeal was to be reviewed at the end of February but was postponed at the request of the defendant, Moscows Finance Directorate.

Igor Trunov perceived the pause in proceedings as an attempt by the Moscow authorities to strike an amicable accord and addressed the mayors office in a letter suggesting an out-of-court settlement, agreeing to scale down the compensation claims from the initial $1 million to $50,000 per person. But at the beginning of April city officials rejected Trunovs proposal saying they saw no legal grounds for paying compensation.

At the end of April the Moscow City Court upheld the previous ruling, which scarcely surprised Igor Trunov.

From the very beginning, the lawyer said, he never doubted that the Moscow City Court was unlikely to satisfy his appeal, since, just like any other court in the capital, the City Court is partially financed from the city coffers, and therefore, could not be considered completely impartial when judging a case against the city government.

Earlier, Trunov said that if the Moscow City Court rejected his claim he would take the case to the Supreme Court, and then to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. At the end of April the lawyer told Gazeta.Ru that his plans had changed. Trunov is not going to send the appeal to the Supreme Court, as there is a risk that the Moscow City Court, and later the Supreme Court will deliberately protract the examination, ''so that we lose time''.

According to the lawyer, a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has to be filed within 6 months of the ruling by a court of the first instance i.e. the Tverskoi inter-municipal court coming into force.

The lawyer said he hoped to attach more weight to the complaints lodged by the Russian nationals by adding the claims of foreigners who also suffered during the hostage drama and who have also become his clients. ''After all, in Europe the attitude towards Americans is different from that towards Russians,'' Trunov told Gazeta.Ru.

At least 129 hostages died during and after the theatre siege, most of them from the post-effects of exposure to the narcotic gas used in the storming of the theatre building.

08 15:50


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