Russian court arrests Caucasus politician in murder probe

2nd June 2013, Comments 0 comments

A court in Moscow on Sunday ordered an influential mayor from the unstable Dagestan region held for pre-trial detention as part of a murder probe, after Russian police arrested him in a military-style helicopter raid.

Said Amirov, the mayor in Dagestan's main city of Makhachkala who is a supporter of President Vladimir Putin, was shown on most national channels as the court ruled he be held for two months on suspicion of ordering the murder of an investigator.

"He will be charged within ten days," said a statement from the Investigative Committee. Ten people have been arrested with Amirov as part of the probe into the 2011 murder of a Makhachkala investigator Arsen Gadzhibekov, it said.

Amirov was first elected mayor of Makhachkala in 1998, earning a reputation as a pragmatic statesman as neighbouring Chechnya was at war with Moscow and separatism began to spread through the North Caucasus. He gradually became Dagestan's most influential and feared politician.

Over the last two decades he also survived numerous assassination attempts as the fighting between authorities and the Islamist insurgency in Dagestan worsened.

Makhachkala, which made recent headlines as the home of the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers, suspects in the Boston Marathon attack, is a regular target of bombings and shootings.

The white-haired Amirov, 59, was shown Sunday sitting in a courtroom cage in a wheelchair, something the Rossiya channel said was "the result of many attempts on his life."

"I will answer for every one of my actions or words," he said.

On Saturday, the operation to arrest Amirov employed masked federal security service (FSB) troops and armoured vehicles which blocked the Dagestan capital's main square in order to organise a helicopter landing.

They then led Amirov from his home nearby and flew him out of Dagestan, the whole event apparently a complete surprise to the local and regional security officers.

Arsen Gadzhibekov was a senior investigator in a district of Makhachkala when he was shot to death in December 2011 as he exited his car at midnight, a killing similar to many other attacks against security officers that are frequently blamed on insurgents.

The investigators' website said he was investigating the insurgency, among other things.

Since that time, Amirov, an ardent Kremlin supporter, led Putin's presidential campaign in his city for which he received the president's letter of gratitude.

On Sunday officials in Makhachkala listed his involvement in majority party United Russia as one of many achievements in a letter to Putin, asking him to take the case under his "personal control".

© 2013 AFP

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