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30 Apr, 2008 14:26

Eight found guilty of market bombing

Eight people have been found guilty of detonating a bomb at Moscow’s busy Cherkizovsky market on August 31, 2006. The explosion killed fourteen people, including two children, and injured forty others.

On August 21, 2006, a powerful blast left 14 dead and 47 injured at one of Moscow's busiest markets. Most of the victims were immigrants from the North Caucasus and East Asia.

The verdict of the Moscow City Court jury was unanimous. It found eight people guilty of organising the terrorist attack, and ruled that four of the eight do not deserve leniency.

But their lawyers are not happy with the verdict. One of them, Oleg Smirnov, said the defence team insists that the Cherkizovo market explosion was a tragic accident.

“There was no racial motive, but it was an accident. We are going to appeal against the verdict,” he said.

It is now up to the judges and the jury will to decide the severity of the punishment for the accused. It's believed some could spend the rest of their life behind bars.

The ‘Cherkizovo Eight’ were mostly students, and all belonged to the same sports and history club. It was a cover for a group that organised several explosions in businesses belonging to non-Slavs, and its members have been found guilty of numerous beatings, and a stabbing on the Moscow metro.

Fifty-three people have been killed in hate crimes this year, that's three times as many over the same period in 2007. Yet, Russia's leading hate crime watchdog, the SOVA Centre, says the legal system is paying more attention to stamping out the problem.

Galina Kozhevnikova from the Centre said the verdict was expected.

“There has been a marked tendency in Moscow to prosecute radical right-wing organisations. And those still in existence are coming under increasing pressure,” she pointed out.