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Tajik Court Starts Hearings Into 'Santa Claus' Murder Case

Parviz Davlatbekov
DUSHANBE -- A court in Dushanbe has started hearings into the high-profile murder of a local citizen in a Santa Claus costume.

Parviz Davlatbekov, 24, was stabbed to death on December 31, 2011, as he entered his relatives' apartment block in Dushanbe wearing a Santa Claus costume, which his relatives say he put on to surprise them.

Eight young men, including a teenager, have been charged with the murder.

The case sparked controversy in Tajikistan and abroad as some reports said the attackers killed Davlatbekov on religious grounds.

Officials say the attack was not religiously motivated.