MOSCOW -- A North Caucasian man has been found guilty of the premeditated murder of a Russian soccer fan in a highly resonant criminal case that triggered ultranationalist rioting near the Kremlin in December.
Late on October 20, the jury found that Aslan Cherkesov intended to shoot Yegor Sviridov dead with his stun gun on December 6, 2010 during a street brawl between Spartak Moscow soccer fans and six North Caucasian men including Cherkesov.
The jury voted 8-4 in favor of conviction.
His five companions were all found guilty of hooliganism or inflicting light physical harm in connection with Sviridov's death.
Mariya Semenko, a state prosecutor, told reporters that the jury’s verdict paves the way for them to receive stiff prison sentences.
"The prosecution believes the jury’s verdict to be lawful and well-founded," she said. "The accused were found guilty of all charges, meaning that the jury agreed with the stance of the state prosecution that they do not deserve leniency.”
Sentencing is scheduled for October 25.
Self-Defense Claim Rejected
The Moscow City Court judge put 29 questions to the jury on which to base their verdict. The most important was whether Sviridov's killing by Cherkesov was premeditated.
The jury deliberated for five hours after a full day in court and only reached a verdict with a vote late in the evening on October 20.
The defendants' lawyers maintained that their clients had no intention of killing anyone but only wanted to end the fighting. They said they were outnumbered and acted in self-defense.
Cherkesov, an immigrant from Kabardino-Balkaria, intends to appeal the decision.
"This is a pretty serious verdict for my client," Cherkesov's lawyer, Dmitry Pankov, told national television after the trial. "On the most important charge eight versus four found him guilty. That means that four found him not guilty, while eight found him guilty of the murder of the Yegor Sviridov. We are definitely going appeal against the verdict."
Fears Of Ethnic Clashes
There have been worries that a lenient sentence could spark ethnic clashes.
Yegor Sviridov's murder in December became a rallying call for Russian nationalists, who rioted on Manezh Square near the Kremlin walls after Moscow police released two main suspects on bail. Dozens were injured in ethnic clashes that followed.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the site of the shooting and called it a “tragedy.” The protests are seen as having had an impact on the authorities’ handling of nationalist issues. On October 19, the Moscow City Court sentenced three ultranationalists to between 17 and 24 years behind bars for the murder of a Tajik immigrant in Moscow in 2008.
Ultranationalists plan to conduct their annual “Russian March” on November 4 in Moscow despite being denied permission by city officials. Last year, the event was authorized and attracted several thousand people on the outskirts of Moscow.
The Sviridov case has again brought the use of stun guns in Russia under increased scrutiny.
Stun guns -- also known as traumatic guns -- shoot pellets or rubber bullets and are regarded as nonlethal.
Nonetheless, they have been linked to a number of deaths in recent years.