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Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Matter Who You are, if Your Skin is Dark, You are Not Safe in Russia

The Moscow Times reports:

The teenage son of an Iranian Embassy translator was knifed to death in southwest Moscow late Sunday in what prosecutors said could have been a hate crime. Passers-by discovered Ahmad Riza Kharrani, 19, lying on the sidewalk with multiple stab wounds to his torso at around 9 p.m. Sunday on Ulitsa Kedrova, near the Akademicheskaya metro station, city police spokesman Konstantin Yarvenko said. Kharrani was conscious at the time and managed to give his parents' contact information to the two pedestrians, who notified them, Yarvenko said. Kharrani's parents called an ambulance, but he was unconscious by the time it arrived. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him, and Kharrani died of his wounds at the scene, said Dmitry Shershakov, chief prosecutor of the Southwest Administrative District. No one has been detained in the attack, making it difficult to establish a motive, Shershakov said. "We cannot rule out that the attack was racially motivated," he said. The Iranian Embassy sent a note to the Foreign Ministry demanding "decisive steps" from authorities in apprehending suspects, Interfax reported. Prosecutors have classified the attack as premeditated murder, punishable by up to life in prison.

Human rights activists have noted an increase in the number of hate crimes in recent years. According to research by the Sova center, 37 people were killed in racist crimes through July -- 24 of them in Moscow. The think tank, which tracks hate crimes, said that number was up 22 percent from the same period last year. Kharrani was a student at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, and his father is a translator at the Iranian Embassy, Yarovenko said. "Obviously, he is very upset," said a woman who answered the telephone at the embassy Monday. "He will not come to work this week." An embassy spokesman declined to comment. An employee of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute described Kharrani as a "good, lively person who had his whole life ahead of him."

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