Russian agents in Qatar "beaten" for rebel leader


The trial of two Russians charged with murdering former Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev resumed in Qatar on Sunday with the court closing the proceedings to the public, Reuters reported.

The suspects’ lawyer has said there is no evidence against the defendants, and that their testimonies were obtained using physical and psychological pressure, Russian media reported.

Attorney Dmitri Afanasiev, who is giving legal aid to the defendants, has said that the suspects testified that they were tortured while in custody. “The defendants were beaten, deprived of sleep for the first four days, and in several cases attacked by special dogs,” the independent news site quoted Afanasiev as saying.

Explaining that the defense obtained a translated copy of the case — over 1,000 pages — only about four days ago, Afanasiev said that they “had time to read it over, and in my opinion, there is no evidence of the defendants being involved in the crime they are charged with,” the news site quoted the lawyer as saying.

The court building is surrounded by a large number of police, while the fence surrounding it was manned by 50 armed guards, the Russian RenTV television station reported. The two Russian suspects were led into the courthouse handcuffed to policemen.

“The first suspect did not look well,” quoted RenTV’s correspondent as saying. “You can see from his face that he is very tired.”

Yandarbiyev’s relatives, as well as representatives of the Chechen diaspora, were present at the trial, along with diplomats.

“I have come to see the faces of the men who killed my husband,” Reuters quoted Yandarbiyev’s widow, Malika, as saying. “I would have preferred the hearing to be open to the public.”

Qatar, a key U.S. ally, charged the two Russians in February over a car blast that killed former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, blamed by Russia for the deaths of hundreds of its citizens in a Chechen separatist war. The Chechen was added at Russia’s request last year to a UN list of people with suspected links to al Qaeda. A third Russian was freed and expelled.

Moscow acknowledged that the suspects were spies, but said they had nothing to do with Yandarbiyev’s death, and were in Qatar to fight global terror. It has demanded the two suspects be released.

Only one of the suspects pleaded guilty to a secondary charge of “deception and forgery”; the other pleaded not guilty.