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Moscow court starts retrial in Chechen singer attack case

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MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow district court has started fresh hearings in the case of three students who attacked a Chechen singer and her son in western Moscow last fall.

Alexei Petrenko, Sergei Bagrov and Artur Belov are charged with inciting racial hatred and insulting human dignity for the alleged attack on Liza Umarova and her son near Fili Park on September 5, 2005.

Investigators said the three young men had been drunk and also assaulted a Jewish man one hour after beating up 16-year-old Murad Umarov. Prosecutors say Petrenko showed his victims a tattoo of the Nazi swastika while beating them.

Bagrov and Belov pled not guilty, whereas Petrenko partially admitted his guilt, saying he had slapped Umarov on the face.

Moscow's Dorogomilovsky district court earlier sentenced Petrenko and Bagrov to three and two years in jail, respectively, while Belov got a one-year suspended sentence. The defense contested the decision, and the case was sent for retrial.

Defense attorney Lyudmila Mironova denied any racist motivation behind the attacks.

"They are just ordinary guys, and they did not have any xenophobic motives. Moreover, the court did not allow reconciliation of the parties, although the victims agreed to it," she said.

The defense also demanded that Bagrov and Petrenko be released from custody, where they have been held for six months, which Mironova said was illegal, but the court rejected the request. Belov was released after promising not to leave the country.

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