Russia says sisters should face trial for murdering abusive father despite outcry

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities said on Tuesday that two sisters should face trial for the premeditated murder of their abusive father, despite calls for leniency in a case that has shone a spotlight on domestic abuse in the country.

Three sisters - Krestina, Angelina and Maria Khachaturyan - are accused of killing their 57-year-old father Mikhail with pepper spray, a knife and a hammer while he was sleeping in July last year.

The sisters, aged 17, 18 and 19 at the time, had endured years of abuse by their father, including systematic beatings and violent sexual abuse, according to investigators’ documents seen by Reuters earlier this year.

The case prompted an outpouring of public support for the sisters from people who said they were also victims of a Russian legal system that turns a blind eye to domestic abuse.

More than 364,000 people signed a petition earlier this year demanding the three women be fully acquitted of any crime.

On Tuesday, the Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said it had completed its investigation and recommended two of the sisters be tried for premeditated murder, which carries a jail term of between 8 and 20 years.

It said it had taken into account the abuse the sisters had been subjected to as mitigating circumstances and that tests had shown the two older sisters were compos mentis at the time of the murder.

The youngest sister, Maria, should be taken into mandatory psychiatric care, the agency said in a statement.

The European Court of Human Rights said in July that Moscow was failing to face up to its domestic abuse problem when it ruled that Russian authorities had failed to protect a woman from repeated acts of violence by her former partner.

Russian legislation does not define or mention domestic violence as a separate offense or aggravating element in other offences, the court noted.

Editing by Giles Elgood