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Nord Ost terror siege 'ringleader' sentenced to 19 years behind bars

Hasan Zakayev was found guilty for being an accessory to kidnapping in the 2002 terrorist attack on the Moscow theater

MOSCOW, March 21. /TASS/. Moscow’s District Military Court on Tuesday sentenced Khasan Zakayev to 19 years in prison, finding him guilty of complicity in the 2002 terrorist attack on the Dubrovka theater, a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom.

"The court ruled to find Zakayev guilty and sentence him to 19 years in a maximum-security colony," Judge Mikhail Kudashkin said.

Zakayev was found guilty of being part of a criminal group, plotting the terror attack, being accessory in hostage taking, the attempted murder of two and more persons as well as illegal weapons trafficking and intentional destruction of other people’s property.

Investigators say Zakayev belonged to a terrorist cell led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, and assisted the group members in planning the Dubrovka attack by smuggling weapons and improvised explosive devices to Moscow, that were later used by the attackers.

The sentence’s clock started ticking on the date of Zakayev’s arrest on August 18, 2014.

The prosecutor had filed a request to sentence Zakayev to 23 years in prison. The state prosecutors also backed the victims’ civil lawsuits estimated at almost 100 million rubles ($1.7mln) and asked the court to satisfy them.

The defendant told the court he had known nothing about the weapons he had transported and pleaded with the court for a milder sentence. During the trial, the defendant entered a plea of partially guilty.

Zakayev’s attorney said he plans to appeal the sentence. "This is his wish," Suleiman Ibragimov told TASS.

Zakayev, internationally wanted for a long time, was arrested in 2014 while trying to enter Crimea from Ukraine with a fake passport. In December 2015, Moscow’s District Military Court sent his case back to the prosecutor’s office to close any technicalities that may hinder the court from reviewing the case on its merits.

On October 23, 2002, a group of over 40 Chechen extremists took more than 900 hostages inside Moscow's Dubrovka theater, where the Nord-Ost musical was in progress. In the small hours of October 26, most of the hostages were released in a special operation. However 130 hostages, including ten underage children were killed in the terror siege.

Six participants in the attack have been sentenced to long prison terms, while 40 terrorists were killed in the operation to release hostages. Only one accomplice, Gerikhan Dudayev, is still on the international wanted list. Shamil Basayev was killed in Ingushetia in July 2004.