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    Strasbourg Court to consider claim of Dubrovka siege victims

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) -- The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear a claim against the Russian government from 58 victims of a hostage crisis in a Moscow theater filed four years ago, a lawyer said Friday.

    The victims filed the claim with the court August 18, 2003, demanding compensation of 50,000 euros each for alleged human rights violations during the security forces' storm of the theater.

    "We filed the claim four years ago, and the court has finally agreed to consider it," Igor Trunov said, adding that the plaintiffs were nationals of Russia, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan.

    Terrorists held the audience at the Dubrovka theater hostage for four days before special task police stormed the building, killing all the hostage-takers. A nerve agent used to overpower the terrorists also led to the deaths of hostages, some reports said. Officially, 130 people died and 700 were injured during the tragedy and the storming.

    "In reply to our claim, the European Court said the defendant - the Russian government - must submit its objections until June 27," Trunov said.

    The victims said in their suit that Russian courts had violated the rights of defendants to unbiased, independent, and fair court proceedings and effective court defense.

    The Strasbourg Court has been delaying consideration of other claims from Russia, including two high-profile suits. The first claim was from the now-bankrupt oil company Yukos against the Russian Federation filed in 2004. The second one was filed in the same year by Russian World War II partisan Vasily Kononov against Latvian authorities, who have accused him of genocide for ordering the killing of several Nazi collaborators in the republic in 1944.

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