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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cowardly Kremlin Attacks Voice of Beslan

The Moscow Times reports:

A court has ruled that a group that has been fiercely critical of the government's handling of the 2004 Beslan attack must change leaders. Ella Kesayeva, the current leader of the group, Voice of Beslan, called Friday's decision by the Leninsky District Court in Vladikavkaz unjust and said it had been based on forged signatures. "Since the moment of our creation, the authorities have been fighting us with every means possible," Kesayeva said by telephone Monday from Vladikavkaz.

Voice of Beslan was formed two years ago by relatives of victims of the 2004 hostage-taking incident, which ended with the deaths of more than 330 people, most of them children. Friday's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Marina Melikova, a former member of the group who claimed to be its rightful leader.

Kesayeva said Melikova backed her claim with documents purportedly showing that she had been elected to head the group. The court ruled in Melikova's favor and ordered the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service to recognize her as the group's leader. Kesayeva said the signatures on the documents had been forged and that witnesses who would have backed this up were not allowed to testify. She said she believed that Melikova was being used by the service to undermine the group. A statement on Voice of Beslan's web site said Melikova had been kicked out 1 1/2 years ago for attempting to disrupt the group.

Attempts to reach Melikova on Monday were unsuccessful. The daily Gazeta reported Sunday that she had declined to comment and was planning to make a statement about the case later this week. A woman who answered the phone at the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service said Monday that the agency's spokesman was on vacation.

Voice of Beslan said it would appeal the court's decision Wednesday and ask prosecutors to investigate Melikova for fraud in connection with the signatures, Kesayeva said. A woman who answered the telephone at the Leninsky District Court on Monday said she was not authorized to comment on the case. In June, the organization helped 89 relatives of Beslan victims file a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights accusing the government of failing to investigate the massacre properly. Kesayeva said the Strasbourg lawsuit would not be affected by Friday's ruling and that the group would continue functioning as it had before.

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