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Russia asks European court to limit Moscow theater siege files

MOSCOW, July 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian government has made a request to the Strasbourg court that public access to evidence from a 2002 Moscow theater siege be restricted, a lawyer for the victims' families said on Thursday.

"We have received notice from the European Court of Human Rights that a [Russian government] representative [in court] has requested that public access to the case files be restricted," Igor Trunov said.

On October 23, 2002, about 40 terrorists took hostage an audience of over 912 people during a Dubrovka theatre performance of the musical Nord-Ost. After three days of negotiations Russian security forces released an undisclosed gas to disable the terrorists before storming the building and killing 39 terrorists. According to official data, 130 hostages died from complications following the release of the gas.

Trunov said the request was made after Russia decided to present all the case files to the court.

"We are acquainted with the case files, they contain no secret information. We have not received any warning that any of the case material could contain state secrets. So we see no grounds to restrict public access," he said.

He said that if evidence is presented in secret, then the European court's ruling will also be classified and that, "it should have legal implications, including for those victims, who have not yet turned to Strasbourg".

The lawyer added that, "The transparency of the court proceedings is one of its fundamental principles."

Trunov said that in the legal complaint made to the court as far back as August 18, 2003, a total of 80 victims from Russia, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan, had demanded 50,000 euros each in compensation for the violation of their human rights.

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