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Russian Soldiers Acquitted Of Chechens' Murder

14 May 2004 -- The lawyer for the families of several Chechens killed in January 2002 by Russian troops said today he would appeal the soldiers' acquittal on murder charges.

Magomed Gandaur-Egui told a news conference in Moscow that he had no complaints about the military prosecutors in the trial but he said the all-Russian jury could have been under pressure to acquit the soldiers last month.

Svetlana Ganushkina of Russia's Memorial rights group said it was "scandalous" that the trial took place in Rostov-na-Donu, where an earlier trial of a Russian colonel accused of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen girl drew demonstrations in support of the Russian soldier.

Prosecutors charged that the three soldiers in this latest case opened fire on a vehicle after the driver ignored their order to stop in the Shatoi region of Chechnya, killing one passenger.

When they discovered the passengers were civilians and three were injured, the soldiers executed the injured passengers and set the vehicle on fire to cover their mistake.