Russian activist says to appeal Chechen court decision on Kadyrov case

A Moscow court ordered a Russian human rights group to retract its accusation that Chechen President Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of Estemirova.

Russian activist says to appeal Chechen court decision on Kadyrov case

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered a Russian human rights group to retract its accusation that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was responsible for the kidnap and murder of one of its activists.

Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial, was ordered to withdraw a statement that Kadyrov was behind the killing of Natalia Estemirova, who was kidnapped in Chechnya and found dead in neighbouring Ingushetia on July 15.

Orlov said he would appeal the decision in Russia, and if necessary in the European Court of Human Rights, but would retract the statement if he lost.

"I consider this our victory because the court to a large degree became a discussion about the guilt of Ramzan Kadyrov. I consider we convincingly proved this guilt," Orlov said. "We will continue to talk about this in courts at various levels."

Moscow's Tverskoi district court ordered Memorial to pay Kadyrov 50,000 roubles ($1,677) in damages and Orlov an extra 20,000, far less that the 10 million demanded by Kadyrov. It said Orlov should publish a retraction within 10 days.

Kadyrov welcomed the verdict, saying he had had no choice but to take the matter to court.

"I understand I shouldn't have expected any other decision in today's Russia," said Orlov, who had made his accusations against Kadyrov on Memorial's website after the killing.

'Hearsay'

Memorial's lawyers said Kadyrov had created a climate of fear in Chechnya and had threatened to kill his enemies, including rights workers. But they did not present direct evidence of any involvement by Kadyrov in the murder.

Andrei Krasnenkov, a lawyer for the Chechen leader, dismissed the evidence as "hearsay". He said Kadyrov was also in the process of suing opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta for 10 million roubles over a series of articles that accused him of torture and extra-judicial killings.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused the authorities of serious abuses including house burning, extra-judicial killings, torture and illegal punishment.

In 2008, high-level Chechen officials, including Kadyrov, made public statements stating that the families of insurgents should expect to be punished unless they convinced their relatives to surrender.

Orlov said this was part of a campaign to silence critics in the media. "Already a large number of journalists are afraid of writing about him," he said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 07 Ekim 2009, 00:46
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