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Chechen Leader Linked To Vienna Murder, But Unlikely To Be Indicted

April 28, 2010

The office of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has dismissed as a "provocation" media reports that the Austrian authorities may be preparing an indictment against him.

Late on April 27, a spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor's office confirmed media reports that local authorities had implicated Kadyrov in the attempted abduction and killing of a Chechen emigre in a Vienna suburb in 2009.

The emigre, Umar Israilov, was Kadyrov's former bodyguard. He had fled to Austria, where he received political asylum and from where he filed a case with the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights in which he accused Kadyrov of personally participating in abductions, torture, and murder.

Israilov was shot dead on a Vienna street in January 2009 as he apparently tried to flee would-be kidnappers.

Austrian police later arrested three men, all of them Chechens, in connection with his killing; a fourth suspect managed to return to Russia.

Austrian federal prosecutor's office spokesman Gerhard Jarosch said on April 27 that Vienna's counterterrorism department has established clear links between the three murder suspects and Kadyrov's closest advisers.

The Austrian daily "Die Presse" quoted Jarosch as saying that the prosecutor's office believes that Kadyrov ordered Israilov's abduction and return by force to Chechnya, but not his killing. Jarosch said it is likely Israilov was shot only because his would-be abductors panicked.

"The New York Times" interviewed Israilov in depth over a period of several months in late 2008. The same "New York Times" journalist, C.J. Chivers, closely monitored the Austrian investigation into Israilov's killing and on April 25 published a detailed account of the events that preceded it.

Chivers identified Shaa Turlayev, a former Chechen field commander who surrendered to the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership in 2004 after being wounded, as implicated in arranging Israilov's killing.

Turlayev is now an aide to Kadyrov.

According to Chivers, Turlayev travelled to Vienna in late 2008 and met there with at least two of the murder suspects. He also tried unsuccessfully to meet with Israilov.

'Blackening' Kadyrov's Name

In an interview with "Die Presse" in May 2009, Kadyrov flatly denied any involvement in Israilov's death.

RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service asked Kadyrov's press spokesman, Alvi Karimov, to comment on this week's reports implicating Kadyrov. Karimov said the reports were intended to discredit the Chechen leader.

He said he was not accusing the Austrian authorities, but that those responsible for circulating the reports knew very well that Kadyrov was not in any way involved in Israilov's death.

"Those who blow up these conversations very much want to cast a shadow on Kadyrov's name, to blacken him, to blacken the republic, and, I would say, to blacken the [Chechen] people," Karimov said.

Austrian prosecutor spokesman Jarosch told "The New York Times" that it was too early to say who precisely would be indicted for Israilov's murder. He said the indictments could be announced "within weeks."

'No Way' Kadyrov Will Be Tried

According to one Austrian expert, Gerhard Mangott, a professor of international relations at the University of Innsbruck and a specialist on Russian affairs, it is highly unlikely Kadyrov will be named.

Mangott points out that even though the Austrian authorities have "reason to believe that Kadyrov authorized Israilov's kidnapping," the prosecutor's office has said it has no evidence that Kadyrov was personally involved.

Second, there is no legal framework within which the Austrian authorities could solicit Russian help.

Mangott says that the Austrians "could ask Russia for support in finding some evidence for Kadyrov's personal involvement, however, there's no treaty for mutual assistance between Russia and Austria in criminal matters."

For that reason, Mangott says, the Austrians are unlikely to even ask the Russians for such assistance because Russia is not obliged to provide it.

Even if the Austrians did seek to indict Kadyrov, there is no chance the Chechen leader would ever go to Vienna since the Russian Constitution does not allow the authorities to extradite any Russian citizen to face legal proceedings abroad.


Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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