Trial begins over killing of Chechen dissident in Vienna
The trial of three Chechens charged with complicity in the murder of dissident Umar Israilov in 2009, allegedly on the orders of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, was set to open here Tuesday under heavy police security.
The three men -- Turpal Ali J., Suleiman D. and Otto K., seen as the operation's mastermind -- are charged with complicity to murder, associating with criminals, and attempted delivery of an individual to a foreign power.
If found guilty, they face possible sentences of between 10 and 20 years.
Another man, believed to have actually fired the shots that killed Israilov, is still on the run.
The trial was to run until November 26.
Although Austrian police concluded earlier this year that Kadyrov himself had given the order for what amounted to a kidnapping gone wrong in January 2009, prosecutors said they lacked evidence to charge the Chechen president, who has vehemently denied any involvement.
Israilov, 27, a former member of Kadyrov's security forces who had defected and sought asylum in Austria, was shot near his Vienna flat on January 13, 2009.
His family's lawyer as well as rights activists quickly pointed the finger at Kadyrov, whom Israilov was reportedly suing in the European Court of Human Rights over abductions and torture between 2003 and 2005.
According to the charges, the suspects were initially meant to bring Israilov back to Chechnya. When he attempted to flee, they shot him, according to police.
Kadyrov's critics say the trial is likely to expose the culture of intimidation carried out by Grozny among Chechen immigrants abroad. It could also throw an uncomfortable spotlight on the Austrian authorities, who are accusesd of failing to protect Israilov, although he made several requests from July 2008 until a few days before his murder.
© 2010 AFP