The case of three Russian sisters charged with the murder of their abusive father has drawn public outrage and shone a light on the way the Russian justice system handles domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.
Thousands have protested outside Russian embassies around the world with more than 200,000 signing an online petition urging prosecutors to drop murder charges against the Khachaturyan sisters.
If found guilty, the three girls, Krestina, Angelina and Maria, face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years in prison.
Advocates for victims of domestic violence say police routinely turn a blind eye to cases of domestic abuse, while preventive measures, such as restraining orders, are either lacking or not in wide use.
The three sisters, now aged 18, 19 and 20-years-old, were repeatedly beaten by their father Mikhail and sexually abused.
Court papers show their father kept a stockpile of knives, guns and rifles at home, despite having been diagnosed with a neurological disorder. He also repeatedly threatened neighbours and family with violence.
His actions, the sisters’ lawyers said, pushed them to the brink one evening last summer.
Their father had 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.
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.
Prosecutors acknowledge the extraordinary violent circumstances that pushed the teenagers to attack and eventually kill their own father, but they insist that Maria, Angelina and Krestina should be tried for murder.
The sisters' lawyers meanwhile argue that they were acting in justified self-defence in circumstances of lasting abuse and life-threatening violence.
Krestina's lawyer Alexei Liptser said on the first day they met "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, however, reportedly in good spirits. "At least, no one is beating them up," Mr Liptser says.
"The Khachaturyan case is quite indicative of the general situation with domestic violence and how the Russian state responds to this problem," said Yulia Gorbunova, who authored an extensive report on domestic violence for Human Rights Watch last year.
According to the court records, the three Khachturyan sisters were afraid that going to the police would make life worse.
They had shared some of their ordeals at home with school friends, but pleaded with them not to go to the authorities.
Russia does not have dedicated laws for domestic violence and two years ago decriminalised domestic battery for first-time offenders.
The number of women reporting domestic violence has since seen a sharp decrease.
In the year before they killed their father, the girls had attended less than two months of classes in total, yet the school administration also did not interfere.
Research on Russian criminal court cases compiled by media outlet Media Zona showed that out of 2,500 women convicted of manslaughter or murder in 2016 to 2018, nearly 2,000 killed a family member in a domestic violence setting.
Human Rights Watch has also documented cases where "a very clear case of self-defence" was not recognised as such by prosecutors and led to the victim's imprisonment.
"The choice is not whether you go to the police and get help," Ms Gorbunova said.
"The choice for these women was either to die or they had to protect themselves to the best of their ability."
Additional reporting by Associated Press
15 Jun, 2020  0  Comments
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