Russia under fire in Austria over dissident murder trial

31st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia came under fire in Austria on Tuesday for its refusal to help the authorities here solve the 2009 murder of a Chechen dissident in Vienna.

A Vienna court is currently trying three men over the murder of Umar Israilov, but its request for assistance from Russia has so far gone unanswered.

The men -- Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, Suleiman Dadayev and Otto Kaltenbrunner -- face possible life senteces for complicity to murder, associating with criminals, and attempted delivery of an individual to a foreign power, and the court is expected to announce its verdict on Wednesday.

The man believed to have actually pulled the trigger, Lecha Bogatirov, is still on the run, while Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is suspected of having ordered the crime.

Moscow has yet to answer a request from the court back in January for help in interviewing Kadyrov.

Four months later, "there is no way we can expect the request for assistance to be completed in the foreseeable future. We have to assume that Moscow is not going to answer," said judge Friedrich Forsthuber.

Human rights groups were also angered by Russia's stance.

"On the eve of the verdict, the coalition of human rights groups monitoring the trial wants to emphasise the importance of this emblematic case and expresses its regret at the absence of cooperation of the Russian Federation with the Austrian justice," the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said in a statement.

"This absence of cooperation and even of response is disrespectful and symptomatic of the deliberate obstruction of Russia to the establishment of the truth and to a fair process of justice," said FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen.

An Austrian police report last year concluded that Kadyrov had ordered the kidnapping of Israilov, who was then shot dead on a Vienna street in January 2009 as he tried to flee.

Prosecutors, too, believe that Kadyrov ordered 27-year-old Israilov to be kidnapped with the explicit instruction that he be killed if he resisted.

Nevertheless, at the start of the trial in November, the prosecutors conceded there was insufficient evidence to prove the Chechen president's involvement.

© 2011 AFP

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