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Court grants paroles to ex-officer guilty of Chechen teen murder

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NIZHNY NOVGOROD, December 24 (RIA Novosti) - A court has upheld a parole request from a former Russian military officer sentenced to 10 years in jail for the murder of a young Chechen woman, a prosecutor's office spokesman said on Wednesday.

Yury Budanov, a former tank commander during the second military campaign in Chechnya, was convicted in the summer of 2003 of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elsa Kungayeva, three years earlier.

It is the second time the Dimitrovgrad City Court, in the Volga basin's Ulyanovsk Region, has considered a parole plea from Budanov. The court previously refused parole to Budanov, who then appealed to a regional court, which referred the case on December 3.

Budanov admitted killing Kungayeva, but claimed temporary insanity, saying he had strangled her in a fit of rage because he thought she was a sniper.

Budanov's conviction came after a lengthy legal process involving a controversial retrial and numerous psychiatric reports.

Russian society was divided over the issue, with human rights activists seeking his conviction, and other groups, including the military, supporting him.

In December 2002, a court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don accepted Budanov's defense and acquitted him, but Russia's Supreme Court overturned the ruling in February 2003 and ordered a retrial.

In July 2003, the military tribunal of the North Caucasus Military District sentenced Budanov to 10 years and stripped him of his rank and honors after a two-year trial.

In September 2004, the then governor of the Ulyanovsk Region, Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who served in Chechen campaigns, submitted an appeal to then president Vladimir Putin to pardon Budanov.

The appeal was turned down. The Kremlin said the guilty verdict was the correct decision that punished those who tarnished the reputation of the Russian Army.

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