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14 Feb, 2008 04:27

Racial assault case: Judge fails to show up

An inquiry has been launched into why a Russian judge didn’t show up for court, allowing two teenagers accused of racist assaults to walk free. The two teenagers were accused of assaulting an Uzbek man.

Two weeks ago a 28-year-old Uzbek man, Sayfullo Murtafulaev, was cornered in a courtyard in the south-west of Moscow.

“They asked me – what are you doing?  I said I was writing a text message to my mother and I wanted to take cigarettes out of my pocket, when one hairy man hit me on the arm, a bald man with a beard punched me in the face and I fell over,” he said.

He survived 12 stab wounds, later to pick his suspected assailants out of a police line-up.

A week later a 17 and 19 year old were arrested.  They admitted involvement but deny it was a one-sided attack.

“I had found out that this person had gone after my girlfriend, and I went to find out what was going on.  He responded with swearing and started saying you Russians are pigs, we're going to slaughter you all and Russia will be under us,” Aleksey Lovushkin, a suspect, said.

The two were held for as long as legally possible without a court decision. But when they appeared in court on Tuesday – the judge on duty was nowhere to be found, an issue now the subject of internal inquiry.

Police were forced to let the men go – on the condition they turn up at their next hearing, something no one can guarantee.