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Russia's Medvedev Calls For Tougher 'Terrorism' Trials

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Insurgents arrested in the turbulent North Caucasus region should be tried elsewhere in Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev said on August 19, part of a series of moves to tackle a growing wave of attacks.

In a tough speech to security officials following a bomb attack on a police station in Ingushetia in which 25 people were killed, Medvedev said insurgents should be wiped out "without emotion or doubt."

Intensifying violence in the North Caucasus, where Russia has fought two wars with Chechen separatists since the early 1990s, is viewed by the Kremlin as a security threat that spread through the country.

"Some time ago we got the impression the situation in the Caucasus concerning terrorist attacks had improved," Medvedev told the meeting in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, Russian news agencies reported.

"Unfortunately, recent events show this is not so," he said, referring to the August 17 attack, the deadliest in the North Caucasus in four years. "We must continue fighting terrorists without sentiment, killing them without emotion or doubt."

Twenty-five people were killed and nearly 140 were wounded in the latest attack when a suicide bomber blew up a truck filled with explosives at police station in Nazran, a spokesman for Ingushetia's leader said on August 19.

Medvedev on August 18 sent Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev, a veteran of the second Chechen war, to take over security operations in Ingushetia.

On August 19 he went further suggesting that people suspected of "terrorism" -- a term broadly used in Russia in reference to any violent extremist attacks -- should be tried away from their home region to prevent them intimidating courts.

"In the near future a decision could be taken to change the territorial jurisdiction of terrorism and extremism cases," Medvedev was quoted as saying.

"If we cannot give the bandits a quality trial here [in the North Caucasus], we will do this elsewhere -- in Moscow, St Petersburg, in Kamchatka," a peninsula in Russia's Far East, Medvedev said.

Medvedev also said criminal groups, which officials say share the blame for surging violence in the impoverished North Caucasus, should not be tried by juries.

"Juries are not coping," said Medvedev, who has strongly resisted conservative demands that Russia end jury trials. "We must consider having these cases heard by professional judges."

A hostage-taking raid by rebels from Chechnya on a school in the town of Beslan in North Ossetia in 2004 was used by Medvedev's predecessor Vladimir Putin as a pretext to boost Kremlin control of Russia's vast regions.

Putin, now a powerful prime minister, scrapped elections of regional governors and changed election legislation to complicate life for small opposition parties.

Medvedev said action was needed following the Ingushetia bombing, an earlier attempt to assassinate Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov as well as kidnappings and killings of rights campaigners in Chechnya and Ingushetia.