Participants in ethnic brawl get 3-year suspended terms

KONDOPOGA (Karelia), November 2 (RIA Novosti) - A court in Kondopoga, in Karelia northwest Russia, has given 12 people, convicted of taking part in a September 2006 mass ethnic brawl, three-year suspended sentences.

The court found them guilty of damaging private and municipal property, but not of inciting racial hatred because they had partially admitted their guilt.

Kondopoga, in the Republic of Karelia, experienced a wave of racial violence in early September 2006 after two local residents were killed and five others injured in a restaurant brawl with Chechens August 30.

The incident sparked racially motivated violence in the community, and a wave of nationalist protests elsewhere in the country. A total of 109 people were detained in the city on suspicion of involvement in pogroms and arson attacks.

Alexander Brot, the director of the Moscow bureau for human rights protection, said the verdict is just, but the investigation must be continued to find the direct organizers of the violence, who deserve a harsher punishment.

"The prosecution should have shifted its attention to the organizers of the unrest, who in my opinion deserve harsher penalties," he said.

In March this year a court in northern Russia sentenced two men to three and a half years and eight months in prison for their part in last year's restaurant brawl, which triggered racial violence in the region.

Sergei Mozgalev and Yury Pliyev, convicted of assaulting three restaurant employees, are currently serving their prison terms in a high-security prison.

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