[JURIST] A Russian judge Friday found Nurpashi Kulayev [Wikipedia profile] guilty of all charges for his role in the September 2004 Beslan school siege [BBC backgrounder; MosNews report], sentencing him to life in prison. Kulayev was charged [JURIST report] with terrorism and murder, and earlier this month, the judge ruled [JURIST report] that Kulayev committed an act of terrorism over the defendant's denial that he killed anyone [JURIST report] during the attack. The defendant also claimed that he was forced to participate in the seige by terrorists, though the judge said this claim conflicted with the evidence.
Kulayev was the lone survivor of the three-day September 2004 hostage crisis where the attackers kept 1,300 hostages, mostly children, in a school building while they demanded that Russian soldiers leave Chechnya as a term of surrender. Many hostages died when the school roof collapsed in flames during a rescue effort. The judge said Kulayev would have received the death penalty, but for the Russian moratorium on capital punishment [Pravda report]. Several critics have suggested the government should bear some responsibility for the deaths of the hostages, alleging the government provided inadaquate medical care and should not have used heavy artillery before the hostages were released, and a Russian panel said last year that local police were negligent in ignoring orders to increase security at the school [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.