A St Petersburg jury Tuesday acquitted 17 young men of the 2004 killing of a Vietnamese student, reflecting the racial tension that has gripped Russia, and especially its former imperial capital, in recent years. Eight of the teenage defendants were acquitted of all charges, and nine were found guilty on six other, separate charges, all involving attacks on foreigners, Interfax reported.
Attacks on Palestinian and Chinese nationals were said to be racially motivated. The beatings of a Ghanaian and Azeri, however, were pronounced as mere “street brawls.”
The court will determine their sentencing on Thursday, the news agency reported.
At least 20 foreign citizens have been killed in racially—motivated crimes in Russia this year, human rights watchdog Sova has said.
The Moscow Human Rights Bureau counted 25 such killings in 2005.
But the deaths of foreigners and ethnic minorities are rarely recognized as hate crimes in courts of law, with judges and juries often calling racially-motivated murders “hooliganism.”
In July, a St Petersburg court acquitted four people in the killing of Congolese student Roland Epassak.
In March, seven of eight defendants in the murder of nine-year-old ethnic Tajik Khursheda Sultonova, a St. Petersburg native, were found guilty of hooliganism. The eighth was fully acquitted.