Followers Say Arrest of Russian Cult Leader Politically Motivated

MOSCOW–Followers of a jailed cult leader who promised to help resurrect children who died in the Beslan school siege said Monday that he is being prosecuted for political reasons.

Grigory Grabovoi, who says he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and claims to be able to cure AIDS and cancer, among other things, has been in custody since his April arrest on charges of defrauding clients, lawyer Vyacheslav Makarov told reporters.

Grabovoi denies the charges, saying that he personally took no money from his clients, said Svetlana Komarova, a spokeswoman for Grabovoi’s party.

Grabovoi’s followers say the arrest, which came several weeks after Grabovoi announced he would create a political party, is a government-sponsored campaign to silence a potential opposition figure.

A prosecutor dealing with Grabovoi’s case was not available for comment on Monday.

Susanna Dudiyeva, whose son was among 333 people who died in the 2004 school hostage-taking, said the legal campaign against Grabovoi is meant to tarnish him and discredit a campaign by victims’ relatives for an impartial investigation into the tragedy, for which they say officials are as much to blame as the terrorists.

The only hostage-taker known to have survived, Nur-Pashi Kulayev, was sentenced in May to life in prison. But many activists were unsatisfied with the trial, saying the court ignored conflicting evidence about the attack and the government’s response.

“Nobody took any money from us — our belief is voluntary,” Dudiyeva told reporters. “If someone can cure at least one person, if he can save at least one person, such people should be made the state’s asset and not be kept behind bars.”

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Aug. 28, 2006

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)