In Retrial, Moscow Shul Stabber Given a 16-year Prison Sentence

A young Moscow man received a 16-year prison term for a stabbing attack on worshippers at a synagogue earlier this year. Alexander Koptsev, 21, went on a stabbing rampage Jan. 11 at the Bolshaya Bronnaya shul in Moscow, injuring nine people. He was found guilty of attempted murder and also of inciting racial hatred, a charge that had been dropped during his first trial, in March.

The Federation of Jewish Communities, a leading Russian Jewish organization, said last Friday it was satisfied with the Moscow City Court’s verdict in the retrial, calling it more adequate “because it included hate crime charges and qualified the crime as an act of anti-Semitism.”

Yitzhak Kogan, rabbi of the Bolshaya Bronnaya synagogue, said he was satisfied that the court finally had agreed that Koptsev had come to the synagogue precisely to kill Jews.

On March 27, the same court found Koptsev guilty of attempted murder of two or more persons, motivated by ethnic hatred. The court sentenced him to 13 years but dropped a charge of activities aimed at inciting racial, ethnic and religious hatred.

In any case, the original sentence was overturned in June following appeals by Koptsev’s lawyers, who argued that the punishment was too harsh.

After the March sentencing, representatives of the injured Jews, as well some Jewish leaders, criticized the fact that the hate crimes charge had been dropped.

Koptsev’s lawyers said last Friday they were unsure if they would appeal the sentence again, but insisted that Koptsev deserved a lighter sentence because of his mentally unstable condition. In both trials, the court ordered compulsory psychiatric treatment for Koptsev.

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