Sect leader Grabovoi accused of fraud pleads not guilty

Moscow, Russia - The notorious sect leader Grigory Grabovoi on trial for fraud pleaded not guilty in a Moscow court, a defense counsel said Wednesday.

"As the prosecution announced the indictment, the judge asked the defendant whether he would plead guilty. He replied, 'I am not a fraud, and I plead not guilty,'" Vyacheslav Makarov said.

He said his client, who was detained and remanded in custody last April following complaints from parents of children killed in the Beslan terrorist attack in September 2004, believes the case against him is religiously motivated, and added the court will cross-examine those who had made the complaints Thursday.

Charged with 11 counts of fraudulently obtaining money "under the guise of resurrecting the victim's dead relatives or curing them of serious illnesses," Grabovoi has applied to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming violations in his case.

If found guilty, the notorious healer could face a 120,000-ruble fine (over $4,500) or a two-year prison term.