06/21/2006, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Moscow synagogue attack: Supreme Court reopens Koptsev case

The young man who attacked Jewish worshippers with a knife was originally found guilty only of "attempted murder", and not incitement to racial hatred as victims' lawyers requested.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia's Supreme Court has ordered a review of the 13-year prison term handed down to Aleksandr Koptsev, a man who attacked worshippers in a Moscow synagogue.

The 20-something man was accused of attempted murder and assault "motivated by racial hatred" after he stormed a downtown Moscow synagogue on January 11, injuring nine people, before being wrestled to the ground by the rabbi and his son, witnesses said.

Koptsev himself told investigators that he was jealous of Jews and their better living standards.

On March 27 he was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 13 years of prison and required to undergo psychiatric treatment.

In its verdict the Moscow court did not find him guilty of inciting ethnic hatred—Article 282 of Russia's criminal code.

A month later, his defence lawyers appealed against the verdict for a reduced sentence. The lawyers representing Koptsev's victims also filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court to overturn the sentence arguing that the incitement to racial hatred be included in the charges. Yesterday the Supreme Court ordered the Moscow court to review the case.

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said he was hopeful that Alexander Koptsev will be found guilty of anti-Semitism.

In its 2004 annual report, Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute accused Russia, Ukraine and Belarus of not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism. According to its study, the authorities of these countries tend to describe those responsible of attacks against Jews as "hooligans" or "terrorists" without considering anti-Semitism as a motivating factor.

In a survey by the Pew Research People and the Press on global attitudes towards Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Russia tops the list of most anti-Semitic country with a Christian majority. About 51 per cent of those interviewed said they were against the Jews.

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