The Supreme Court of Russia overturned Tuesday a ruling of the Moscow City Court, which had sentenced Alexander Koptsev, 21, to a prison term for the attempted murder of nine people at a synagogue in central Moscow on January 11, but cleared him of instigating racial hatred. The case was sent for a retrial.
"The main thing for us is that the defendant's actions are qualified as anti-Semitic and aimed at inflaming ethnic and religious hatred," Berl Lazaar said. "I hope the retrial will proceed from this interpretation."
Lazaar said Koptsev had only attacked people who were praying and had made no secret during the trial that he was going to "kill Jews - people he did not know personally."
The chief rabbi said that now that "many foreign politicians and international media say that xenophobia is on the rise in Russia and accuse the authorities of turning a blind eye, the Supreme Court ruling could prove that the authorities, including the judiciary, are really concerned about nationalist trends."
The rabbi said he hoped that the new verdict would be a strong warning signal to any extremists and not only anti-Semites.