Hostages from theater seeking compensation

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3 2002 8:35 a.m. MST

MOSCOW — A Moscow court began hearing complaints Tuesday from former hostages and victims' families seeking compensation from the city government in connection with the October hostage crisis.

The Oct. 23-26 siege of a Moscow theater by Chechen rebels ended after Russian special forces stormed the building, killing the 41 hostage-takers. At least 129 of the hostages also died from the effects of a narcotic gas used to knock out the militants.

Lawyer Igor Trunov said he represents eight clients — five former hostages and three relatives — and that more have approached him about taking part in the case. Seven of the clients are seeking $1 million each, and one is seeking $500,000.

The trial, in central Moscow's Tverskoi district court, was set to begin on Dec. 24. The case marks the first time any of the victims or their families have sued authorities over the hostage crisis.

Trunov said the cases are based on Russia's new anti-terrorism law, which he says stipulates that the Russian region where a terrorist attack occurs should pay moral and material damages to the victims. He said he had no doubts about winning.

"There is only one question, how much money they will get," Trunov said outside the courtroom after Tuesday's hearing.

Anna Lyubimova, who appeared at the court, said her father, 71-year-old Nikolai Lyubimov, survived the hostage ordeal but said his left arm and parts of his face were paralyzed. He can no longer feed himself properly and his meager pension is not enough to pay for medical treatment, she said.

"His health is totally damaged," Lyubimova said. "He's afraid to go outside by himself, he's not given any material help to buy medicines."

Trunov said all of his clients were Russian and said he expected the suit could drag on for years before the court makes a ruling.

Meanwhile, an influential business association said it had raised $950,000 for former hostages and victims' families. Arkady Volsky, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, said the group will give $1,600 to each of the victims' families and $800 to each surviving hostage, according to the Interfax news agency.

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