Chechnyan president sues Russian activist over murder claim

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The president of Russia's Chechnya region has launched a libel action against the head of Russian rights group Memorial. Ramzan Kadyrov is seeking ten million rubles (£207,800) from Oleg Orlov who accused him of involvement in the kidnap and murder of another rights activist.

Orlov has told the court he did not mean direct involvement, but "political guilt" when he laid responsibility for Natalya Estemirova's slaying upon Kadyrov. "I didn't speak of his involvement, I spoke of his guilt. These are two different things," Orlov testified.

Human rights defenders are miserable people

—Andrei Krasnenkov, lawyer

Kadyrov did not appear in court but his lawyer, Andrei Krasnenkov, neither called witnesses nor questioned those brought by the defence. Krasnenkov said Orlov's words were helping destabilize Chechnya and told reporters that "Human rights defenders are miserable people."

Estemirova had been threatened several times by Kadyrov and had fled Russia previously as a result, sometimes for months. Her death prompted the closure of Memorial's Chechnyan office. She was, Kadyrov said, "without honour or a sense of shame." Memorial say they hope the court case, which gets under way on October 6, will reveal new evidence of serious crimes they claim Kadyrov routinely ignores. These include extra-judicial killings, kidnap, torture, and arson attacks.