by Staff Writers
Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan (AFP) Nov 19, 2012
A Kazakh border guard charged with killing 14 fellow servicemen at a remote frontier post went on trial Monday accused of murder, damage of property and theft of classified documents.
Vladislav Chelakh was the sole survivor of a May tragedy at a Kazakh border post with China that left 14 guards and a huntsman dead.
The 15 bodies were found in the burnt-out wreckage of the Argkankergen border control post in the Tian Shan mountain range outside Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty.
Chelakh, who was found sheltering in the huntsman's hut, confessed to killing his fellow servicemen and the huntsman but later retracted the confession saying it was made under psychological pressure.
He said the border post had come under attack.
In October, he tried to hang himself in a detention centre but was saved.
The prosecutor-general's office has said that "internal conflicts and an inexplicable condition in which his mental state was clouded" drove Chelakh to commit the murders.
He faces charges of murder, damage of military property, theft of classified documents, and desertion, among others.
It was not immediately clear what punishment he could face if convicted.
The military is also seeking compensation from Chelakh to cover the cost of the damaged property which it estimated at 7.8 million tenge (around 520,000 dollars), Sergei Sanin, a representative of a military unit where Chelakh served, said in court.
During the hearings in the town of Taldykorgan in the southeast of the Central Asian country, Chelakh insisted that cameramen be removed from the courtroom.
"Why are journalists here?," he shouted, an AFP correspondent reported from the courtroom. "Kick them out of here!"
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