One evening last summer, Mikhail Khachaturyan decided that his living room wasn't tidy enough, so he summoned his three teenage daughters one by one and doused each with pepper spray. There was little unusual about this evening in the Khachaturyan household, according to court records, except for one thing: The sisters decided they couldn't take the violence and abuse anymore. They waited until their father fell asleep in his rocking chair and attacked him with a kitchen knife and a hammer. He put up a fight, but died within minutes. The AP reports the Khachaturyan sisters, now aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged last month with premeditated murder, in a case that has drawn outrage and shone a light on the way the Russian justice system handles domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.
More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition urging the prosecutors to drop the murder charges, which could land the sisters in prison for up to 20 years. Court filings showed that the Khachaturyan sisters were repeatedly beaten by their father, a war veteran, and sexually abused. He had kept a stockpile of knifes, guns, and rifles at home despite having been diagnosed with a neurological disorder. The Khacharutyan sisters' lawyers say the girls were driven to the edge. "The first day we met," Krestina's lawyer Alexei Liptser said, "she said she's better off here, in jail, than living at home the way she had been." The sisters have been released on bail and barred from seeing each other, witnesses in the case, or the media. They are reportedly in good spirits. "At least, no one is beating them up," Liptser says. (The AP has much more on the case here.)