Siberian skinheads plead not guilty in race-hate case

NOVOSIBIRSK, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - Eight skinheads in central Siberia charged with extremism and inciting racial hatred pleaded not guilty Thursday, a court official said Friday.

The "Brotherhood of Skinheads," as the group called itself, was detained in 2002 on suspicion of beating up and stabbing an ethnic Tajik, who received 18 knife wounds. A search of their homes revealed nationalist paraphernalia, books, and audiocassettes.

Investigators said the teenagers were involved in a series of similar attacks against immigrants from Central Asia in the West Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

Prosecutors are demanding prison terms of five to 10 years, but the defense says the group should be cleared on all counts. The judge will pass sentence on Monday.

The trial started in October 2003. During preliminary hearings, the suspected leader of the group, Mikhail Rodoshkevich, developed a temporary psychological illness, and was sent to a local psychiatric ward for mandatory treatment.

Rodoshkevich has been charged with organizing a criminal extremist group and involving teenagers in criminal activities. He will be tried separately after his recovery from illness, the court official said.

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