Austrian Court Convicts 3 in Chechen’s Murder

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 9:30 pm (UTC-5)
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An Austrian court has convicted three Chechen-born men for their role in the 2009 murder of a former bodyguard, critical of Chechnya's president Ramzan Kadyrov.

The court in Vienna on Wednesday handed Otto Kaltenbrunner a life sentence in the shooting death of Umar Israilov, an ethnic Chechen. Suleyman Dadayev received a 19-year sentence and Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, a sentence of 16 years in prison.

The three men were also ordered to pay compensation of about $36,000 to each of the victim's closest family members. One suspect in the case, Lecha Bogatirov, is still at large.

The court said they had killed Israilov after a botched abduction attempt.

All three had pleaded not guilty to charges of accessory to murder, forming a criminal organization and attempted kidnapping.

Amnesty International's official in Austria, Heinz Patzelt, hailed the sentences and called on the Russian authorities to follow up on the case. He said the court made it clear that Israilov's death was a political murder and that real culprits must be brought to justice.

Chechnya is a Russian republic, in the volatile Caucasus region. Mr. Kadyrov became its president in 2007 with Moscow's approval. Human rights groups have accused him of targeting his opponents and using torture and other harsh methods to keep the peace in the region, where insurgents waged two wars against Russian rule.

Israilov served as President Kadyrov's bodyguard, but later defected and sought asylum in Austria. He was expected to testify against him at the European Court of Human Rights on torture charges, but was gunned down on a Vienna street on January 19, 2009.

President Kadyrov has been suspected of ordering the murder of Israilov. The Chechen leader has denied the allegations. Attempts by Austrian authorities to question Mr. Kadyrov were unsuccessful.