Convicted murderer of soccer fan accuses prosecutors of nationalism

Russian prosecutors have asked for a 23-year prison sentence for a native of the North Caucasus who was found guilty of killing a Russian soccer fan in a street fight.

The violent brawl between soccer fans and North Caucasus natives took place in December 2010. The murder sparked mass nationalist demonstrations in the center of Moscow, with thousands of young people hitting the streets first to commemorate the death of Egor Sviridov, then to clash with police and immigrants in the area.

On October 20, a Moscow court found the principal defendant in the case, Aslan Cherkesov, guilty of all charges – murder, attempted murder, hooliganism and assault.

The prosecutor pointed out that this is not the first time Cherkesov has appeared in court. Five criminal cases have been launched against Cherkesov, including theft, assault of a minor, and car theft.

Cherkesov pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, arguing that even though he had fired the weapon, he had done so in self-defense and without the intention to kill.

“I would like to express my condolences to Sviridov’s mother, but I insist that I did not intenf to kill anyone,” Cherkesov said. “It’s unfair that I’m getting 23 years in prison for self-defense, while others are getting away with less for murder.”

The five other defendants who stood trial alongside Cherkesov were all found guilty of the lesser charges of hooliganism and assault. For the five, prosecutors requested from seven to eight years.

The defendants believe that the sentences are too harsh for hooliganism. They said they are being treated “like monsters.”

“We must be the first people ever in Russia to face eight years in prison for mere hooliganism,” said one of the defendants, Ramazan Utarbiev, as quoted by the Rapsi news agency. “I ended up behind bars because I wanted to help out my friends. If I knew the situation was to repeat itself, I would do the same thing.”

One of the defense lawyers argued that the defendants are actually being punished for hailing from the North Caucasus.

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