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7 Jul, 2008 19:26

‘Messiah’ sentenced to 11 years behind bars

A Moscow court has sentenced a self-proclaimed psychic who said he was capable of resurrecting the dead to 11 years in prison. Grigory Grabovoy had been taking money from the parents of children killed in the Beslan school siege of 2004 in exchange for pr

Grigory Grabovoy has been found guilty of all eleven charges of fraud, following a tense day at the court.

First, there was a delay as a large number of Grabovoy’s supporters arrived, some of them carrying flowers.

Then a suspicious package was found outside the court building and everyone was evacuated. The bomb squad arrived at the scene only to say that the package was not dangerous.

After that the hearings continued.

The path of the ’messiah’

Grabovoy first came to the attention of law enforcement agencies in 2001. The Prosecutor’s Office says it was then that he established a cult and began to spread his teachings. He claimed to be able to cure cancer and AIDS and even resurrect the dead at the request of clients.

Grabovoy was said to have charged up to $US 2,000 for his services.

The skills he advertised found a particularly ready market after Russia was hit by one of its most horrific tragedies of the last ten years – the Beslan school siege of 2004, when a group of armed rebels took more than 1,000 people hostage in the country's republic of North Ossetia. The outrage left more than 300 people dead, including 186 children.

The parents of some are said to have emptied their pockets, hoping that Grabovoy could work a miracle and bring their children back to life. Authorities say Grabovoy preyed on the feelings of mothers whose children died in the siege.

He was arrested two years ago, as he was giving a seminar in one of Moscow's hotels. Followers watched in shock as the self-proclaimed Messiah was rushed off by police.

In June 2006, Grabovoy was charged with eleven counts of fraud, but his lawyer Vyacheslav Makarov says the charges were just a face-saving gesture by the prosecution.

“Moscow's former deputy prosecutor announced that a criminal case had been opened against Grabovoy in connection with the so-called ‘resurrection’ of the Beslan children. However, a letter from the Beslan Mothers’ Committee claimed that no money had changed hands. So I think that these charges of fraud are just the prosecution's attempt to justify its actions and prove that Grabovoy had been rightly charged,” Makarov said.

Grabovoy will now spend the next 11 years behind bars.