All seven convicted in racial murder trial
Anti-fascist activist, 20-year-old Timur Kacharava, died two years ago after he and a friend were attacked by a gang in the city.
It is being seen as a landmark verdict for the Russian legal system, which has repeatedly failed to secure convictions for criminals accused of hate crimes in jury trials.
Kacharava – a student, musician, and a member of an anti-fascist movement – died on November 13, 2005, in his home city. His friends says the group responsible were neo-nazis.
Timur's death isn't an isolated incident, as more and more racially motivated attacks in Russia are being reported.
Anti-fascism meeting, St. Petersburg
In 2004, a 9-year-old Tajik girl was stabbed to death. A murder case was thrown out of court after a jury found there was insufficient evidence to classify the incident as racist. The verdict delivered was instead hooliganism, which carries a much lighter sentence.
But the most common racist attacks occur within student communities. Over the years, Russia has seen a number of foreign students killed or badly beaten in fairly similar attacks.
Last September, an Indian medical student was killed just five months before graduation. His friends are still coming to terms with his death and what it means for them.
“Ok, Russia is for Russians – we understand. We won't take your country away. We are just here for seven years of our life, we just want to get a diploma, make our parents proud of us. That's it,” an Indian student says.
In Voronezh, a city in southwestern Russia, a 19-year-old Peruvian student was stabbed to death, and two of his friends severely injured. A group of about 15 people had surrounded them. The murderer was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
However, even with verdicts carried out and anti-fascist rallies held on a regular basis, attacks are said to be getting more violent and regular.
“From about 1996 to 1997 in Russia skinheads in Russia started to attack Africans and Latin Americans. From 1998 they started to use weapons more often, at first non-automatic weapons. In the beginning, they beat people up and then they started to kill them,” Viktor Shnirelman, from Moscow Helsinki Group, says.
In April of 2006, Lamzar Samba, a Senegalese student was shot dead in St. Petersburg. Prosecutors announced at the scene that his death was a race crime – the murder weapon had a swastika on it.
Earlier this month, the Russian parliament began looking at a bill on extremism, to include harsher punishments for such attacks.