Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

Sisters on trial in Russia for murdering father hold out for acquittal

Investigators find three Khachaturyan sisters were victims of sustained abuse

 Maria (L) and Angelina (R), two of the three Khachaturyan teen sisters charged with their father's murder attend a hearing at Moscow's Basmanny District Court. TASS
 Maria (L) and Angelina (R), two of the three Khachaturyan teen sisters charged with their father's murder attend a hearing at Moscow's Basmanny District Court. TASS

Investigators in Russia have given hope to supporters of three sisters on trial for killing their father by confirming the women were victims of sustained sexual abuse.

Krestina, Angelina and Maria Khachaturyan killed their father as he slept in their home on a July evening last year.

Their supporters say the sisters acted in self-defence when they attacked Mikhail Khachaturyan with a knife, pepper spray and hammer after suffering years of psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

But prosecutors are calling for the women, aged 18,19 and 20, to be convicted of premeditated murder, a charge that could see them jailed for 20 years.

The Khachaturyan sisters’ lawyer, Alexei Parshin, said the “terrifying” abuse suffered by the sisters had been confirmed by the investigative committee.

"Investigators have confirmed years of systematic torture and sexual harassment," Mr Parshin told the state-run news agency Ria Novosti on Wednesday.

"Their mental and physical health was damaged for a long time, and their lives were in danger.

The news has given hope to rights activists and supporters that the murder charges will be dropped and that judges will rule that the women acted in self-defence.

“It’s not a surprise that the investigative committee proved there was violence within the Khachaturyan family, as we all already knew,” Alena Popova, a prominent lawyer and women’s rights activist, told The National.

“The girls acted in self-defence. The investigative committee doesn’t have evidence to support murder charges. The girls should be freed.”

Almost 350,000 people have signed a petition calling for the chairman of the investigative committee, Alexander Bastyrkin, to “take this case under his personal control, quash the indictment against the Khachaturyan sisters and indict the deceased posthumously.”

The case against the sisters has also drawn attention to complaints that Russian police do not properly respond to complaints of domestic abuse.

Mr Parshin, neighbours went to the police to report Khachaturyan’s abusive behaviour but no criminal prosecution was brought against him.

A report by Human Rights Watch from October last year found that Russian police systematically fail to act on credible reports of abuse.

"They often treat victims of domestic violence with open hostility and refuse to register or investigate their complaints of domestic violence," the report said.

A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights has also given hope to the sisters' supporters.

Last month, judges in Strasbourg awarded Valeria Volodina €20,000 (Dh81,500) after Russian police failed to intervene when a former partner kidnapped and assaulted her, even though she had appealed to police for protection.

Updated: August 22, 2019 12:04 AM

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