The Moscow District Military Court has sentenced the leader of the banned Russian “National Socialist Society” and four other members to life in prison for a series of murders, assaults and an attempted act of sabotage.
Six other neo-Nazis received sentences ranging from 10 to 23 years, among them a 24 year old girl who was sentenced to 19 years behind bars. Only one convict, Sergey Sviridov, received a suspended sentence because he had “actively cooperated with investigators”.
The case of the neo-Nazi gang was heard in a military court because one of the convicts faced charges of desertion from the army. The verdict was read in the building of the Moscow City Court for security reasons.
The court ruled that the convicts were guilty of 27 murders – mostly immigrants from Central Asia, but also one anti-fascist activist and one member from their own gang, who had been suspected of betraying his accomplices.
The National-Socialist Society was founded in 2004 by individuals coming from preexisting nationalist movements – the Slavic Union and the Russian National Unity. Investigators claim that the president of the Russian NGO Fakel (“Torch”) that provides aid to disabled persons, was one of the major sponsors of the organization. The society had branches in several regions of the Russian Federation as well as in Belarus, Canada, France and the UK. In February 2010, the Russian Supreme Court recognized the National Socialist Society as an extremist organization and banned it.
However, police detained the members of the most radical branch of the society, the NSO-North, even earlier – back in 2008. Most of the murders were committed by the NSO-North members, not to mention a number of robberies and arsons they perpetuated as well as preparations for a terrorist attack on the Zagorsk hydropower plant in the Moscow Region.
The leader of the group and its key members maintained their innocence even when the sentence was being pronounced. They said that their conscience was above the law and promised to get out of jail soon. The defense lawyers said they were going to appeal the sentence as it was extremely harsh. Besides, one of the lawyers said in an interview with Izvestia daily that his clients had been forced to confess to more crimes they had actually committed under duress and even torture.
The trial was the major link in a long chain of proceedings directed against Russian radical nationalists that have been taking place in Russia over the past several years. The most recent event which grabbed headlines across the country was the May trial of two nationalists, a young man and a girl, who were each sentenced to prison for killing a lawyer and a journalist who had openly opposed the nationalist ideas.