59 Nalchik terror suspects go on trial
Preliminary hearings are due to begin in Russia's Southern Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria over an armed attack in its capital Nalchik two years ago. Fifty-nine suspects are in the dock charged in connection with the terrorist operation.
The city became a scene of a fierce clash between terrorists and federal forces.
Armed militants began their operation on the morning of October 13, 2005. It was aimed at several federal buildings, police stations and the city's airport.
The Russian government sent more than 1,500 special forces to Nalchik to regain control of the city.
Twelve civilians, 35 policemen, and 95 terrorists are known to have been killed during two days of fighting.
Jury or panel of judges?
The preliminary hearings are closed to the public and the media.
Under Russian law, the defendants can choose whether to have the case tried by a jury. This will be decided at the preliminary sage. There is also an option to have the case heard by a team of professional judges.
Ten prosecution lawyers are taking part in the trial, evidence of its importance for the republic.
Lengthy trial expected
About 1,000 witnesses are expected to give evidence at the trial, which could last for more than a year.
Documents on the case run to 340 volumes. All will be examined in the course of the trial.
A number of incidents that took place after the attack itself are also expected to be reviewed.
Some of the terrorist suspects were killed by special forces last summer. At the beginning of June two people were shut in Nalchik during a special operation. Investigators say one of them, Ruslan Odyuzhev, took part in the Nalchik attack in 2005.
Some of the militants had international connections. Odyuzhev was detained in Guantanamo Bay prison for a time as U.S. authorities suspected him of terrorism and taking part in Taliban activities.
“If we think about possible reasons of the dramatic events of 2005, we should remember the time of the 1990s when there were many different trends, many different groups in local Islam. And local authorities openly supported some of them and openly opposed others. It’s not obvious that all those groups to whom local authorities were opposed were supporters of terrorism, radicalism and so on. But this by itself increased tensions in local Islam,” Konstantin Kazenin, the Editor-in-Chief of the 'Regnum' news agency, commented to RT on the case.