A Russian court handed down sentences today to 12 members of the country's most vicious neo-Nazi gang who were convicted of 27 hate killings—including a videotaped decapitation of one of their own gang members. The Moscow City Court sentenced five members of the group, the National Socialist Society North, to life, giving another seven members between 10 and 23 years. One was handed an eight-year suspended sentence. The defendants were mostly men in their 20s and one woman. Most of the gang members had pleaded partial guilt but requested leniency after their lawyers say they were coerced into committing the crimes.
The youths ganged up on apparent foreigners and stabbed them with knives, metal rods, and sharpened screwdrivers in brutal attacks coordinated by the gang's leader, who is estimated to have hundreds of supporters nationwide. During the trial, the defendants mocked the judge, shouting curse words and performing the Nazi salute. They cracked jokes and demonstratively ignored the judge when he spoke to them. Some wore white masks. After the sentences were handed down, one could be heard to yell "our conscience is higher than your laws."