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16 Jan, 2009 16:49

Skinheads sentenced for staging mock racial murder

Two men have been sentenced by a Moscow court for fueling racial hatred and ethnic violence.

Skinhead Maxim Martsinkevich also known as ‘Tesak’ (hatchet) was sentenced for three and half years in prison. Another member of a skinhead gang, 27-year-old Artyom Zuev received a suspended sentence of three years, as he is the father of two children.

In 2006 they distributed a video in which they staged the hanging of a man who was supposed to represent a Central Asian drug dealer. The fake executioners were dressed in Ku-Klux Klan outfits. It showed the man being hung, and then his legs were cut off and burnt. The footage was accompanied by nationalist slogans.

The video hit the internet and made it to the prime time news of the major Russian TV channels and caused a public outcry.

The guilt of the accused was fully established. In accordance with the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the court classified their actions as agitation directed to arouse hatred or enmity as well as the abasement of human dignity based on race, nationality, language, origin or belonging to a certain group, using mass media sources and threatening to commit an organized act of violence.

Martsinkevich says he’s not guilty.

“You have to understand the allegory, I am against drug traffic, but now drug pushers can freely do what they want and sleep well,” he said during his trial.

Earlier Martsinkevich had been given a suspended sentence of three years for calling out nationalist slogans during a political debate in February, 2007. The court decided to cut the total term of punishment to 3.5 years imprisonment.

Hate crimes on the rise

The man in the red t-shirt in the video is an actor. He didn’t die. But in reality immigrants are being attacked and killed by skinhead gangs every year in Russia.

Foreign students and guest workers are among those targeted. There are no official statistics but experts on xenophobia say scores are killed and hundreds injured annually.

“Since the beginning of this year alone, in a 2 week period, 9 have already been murdered and 11 injured. Most of then are from Central Asia, Caucases Republic – as always, one black man, two Vietnamese,” Galina Kozhevnikova of SOVA analytic center says.

Dozens of racially motivated assaults, including murder and offences against children, are registered every year. Last year charges were brought in 33 cases, in 19 Russian regions, resulting in more than a hundred people being sentenced. There was only one verdict of ‘not guilty’.

Some of the images in this report may be disturbing.