Russian court rules to keep cult leader promising to resurrect dead in custody

MOSCOW A Russian court ruled Monday that a cult leader facing fraud charges over his promises to help resurrect the dead will remain in custody, news reports said.

Grigory Grabovoi — who has said he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and also claims to be able to cure AIDS and cancer, among other things — has been in custody since his April arrest. Grabovoi has denied the charges, saying that he personally took no money from his clients.

Moscow’s Tagansky district court was to have opened preliminary hearings Monday in Grabovoi’s trial, but it postponed them until next week, the ITAR-Tass news agency and Channel One television reported. The court rejected an appeal from Grabovoi’s lawyers to free him from jail and extended his term in custody through March.

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Under the Russian criminal code, Grabovoi faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1 million rubles (US$37,400; ‚¬29,500) if convicted.

Russian news reports said that mothers of several children who died in the Beslan attack attended a meeting of Grabovoi’s followers in September 2005, when he pledged to resurrect Beslan children by the following month. However, Grabovoi’s lawyer, Nikolai Khobnya, said Monday that no complaints from relatives of Beslan victims figured in Grabovoi’s criminal case, ITAR-Tass said.

Meetings with Grabovoi cost 1,000 rubles (US$37; ‚¬29) per person for a group meeting and some 40,000 rubles (US$1,500; ‚¬1,180) for an individual interview, according to Russian media reports.

The September 2004 school hostage-taking raid in the southern town of Beslan was Russia’s worst terror attack, killing 333, more than half of them children after heavily armed militants took more than 1,100 hostages.

Grabovoi’s followers said his 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.

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