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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Koptsev Back on Trial for Knife Attack

The Moscow Times

Yury Mashkov / Itar-Tass

The retrial of Alexander Koptsev, charged with attacking worshipers in a synagogue on Jan. 11, got under way Tuesday in the Moscow City Court, Interfax reported.

The court heard testimony from three victims on Tuesday. Statements from two other victims were also read aloud during the trial's opening session.

In late March, the court found Koptsev guilty of attempted murder motivated by ethnic hatred for stabbing and wounding nine men at the Chabad Synagogue at 6 Bolshaya Bronnaya Ulitsa in downtown Moscow.

Witnesses of the attack said Koptsev shouted "Heil, Hitler" as he ran amok in the synagogue, stabbing wildly with a knife before he was overpowered by the synagogue's chief rabbi, Yitzak Kogan, and other worshipers.

The court, however, dropped a related charge of inciting inter-ethnic hatred. In announcing its verdict, the court noted several mitigating factors, including Koptsev's eye ailment and the fact that he was a first-time offender.

Koptsev was sentenced to 13 years at a maximum-security penal colony and mandatory psychiatric treatment.

In June, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. The decision came after both the prosecution and the defense appealed the city court's verdict.


Koptsev's lawyers appealed to have his sentence reduced, arguing that the court had not considered his unstable mental state. Prosecutors appealed the decision to drop the charge of inciting inter-ethnic hatred.

The Moscow City Court previously denied Koptsev's request for a jury trial on procedural grounds. It also denied the defense lawyers' request to have Koptsev released on condition that he not leave the city.

The retrial began in an atmosphere of acrimony, as Vitaly Khavkin, a lawyer representing the victims, called into question the professional competence of Koptsev's lawyers.

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