Russia rights group chief accused of libeling Chechen leader

6th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian investigators have accused the head of rights group Memorial, Oleg Orlov, of libel for charging that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was to blame for the murder of one of its activists, Orlov said Tuesday.

A Moscow court had already ordered Orlov pay a fine and issue a retraction for damaging the honour and reputation of Kadyrov, but the new charges carry a maximum sentence of three years' jail in Russia.

"Kadyrov wanted to put the maximum possible pressure on me so he applied at once for both charges," the criminal libel suit and civil defamation suit, Orlov told AFP by telephone.

"They accused me today under the article 129, chapter three of the criminal code. I rejected this but had to sign the declaration charging me."

The case will now be put before prosecutors to rule on whether it will go to trial, Orlov said.

"In a normal, objective court, the case would fall apart, but we perfectly understand that such cases are decided outside of law in Russia," he said.

Orlov has said he was certain Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of activist Natalya Estemirova in July 2009, one of a number of killings of rights campaigners to shake Russia in recent years.

Memorial is one of Russia's most prominent human rights organisations and has won international praise for its uncovering of rights violations in the Northern Caucasus and campaigning against distortions of Russian history.

© 2010 AFP

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