Kadyrov had 'nothing to do' with dissident's killing: accused

17th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had "nothing to do with" the 2009 shooting of a Chechen dissident in Vienna, the main defendant in the trial told a court in the Austrian capital on Wednesday.

Otto Kaltenbrunner, a 42-year-old insurance salesman, is on trial here with two other men for complicity to murder Umar Israilov, a former member of Kadyrov's security forces who defected and sought asylum in Austria, but who was gunned down near his Vienna flat on January 13, 2009.

The prosecution alleges the shooting was a failed kidnapping attempt carried out on the orders of the Chechen leader.

But Kadyrov "has nothing to do with the tragedy," Kaltenbrunner told the jury on the second day of the trial, which is scheduled to run until November 26.

The defendant admitted to meeting Kadyrov at his house in Chechnya in December 2008, as documented by pictures seized from his mobile phone.

Kaltenbrunner also insisted he was innocent, saying he, too, "has nothing to to with this tragedy."

He and his two alleged accomplices -- Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, Suleiman Dadayev -- are being charged with complicity to murder, associating with criminals, and attempted delivery of an individual to a foreign power, for which they face possible life sentences.

The man believed to have fired the shots that killed Israilov, identified as Lecha Bogatirov, is on the run.

During his cross-examination, Kaltenbrunner -- who is accused of being the ringleader in the shooting -- cast doubt on the prosecution's version of the facts.

He admitted to driving with Dadayev and Bogatirov to a garage south of Vienna on the day before the shooting.

But he insisted he remained in the car and did not participate in any meeting.

The prosecution alleges that it was at the meeting that they recruited the other defendant Yesherkayev.

According to Kaltenbrunner, Dadayev and Bogatirov borrowed the keys to his car, which they used to drive to the shooting, while he remained at home, asleep in a possible drunken stupor.

"Anyone who knows me can confirm that I regularly lend my car to people. People didn't even need to ask," he said.

Quizzed about multiple phone calls he had with the other defendants and Bogatirov, Kaltenbrunner insisted they were "normal conversations. Perhaps we talked about the upcoming New Year celebrations," which in the Russian Orthodox calendar were held on January 13/14 in 2009, the defendant said.

© 2010 AFP

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