Chechen Leader Probed for Alleged Rights Abuses

By: Veronika Oleksyn
By: Veronika Oleksyn

VIENNA (AP) -- Austrian prosecutors said Tuesday they have investigated Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for alleged human rights violations based on a complaint filed by a Chechen dissident who was gunned down in Vienna.

The dissident, 27-year-old Umar Israilov, filed the criminal complaint against Kadyrov in Austria in June, accusing him of torture and other abuses in Chechnya, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office.

Jarosch told The Associated Press that the Austrian investigation of Kadyrov was completed in October and that he expects the results to be released within the next few weeks.

"A final decision is still pending on whether to indict Kadyrov or drop the case," the spokesman said.

Prosecutors did not tell the public the Kadyrov investigation had been conducted until word emerged that Falter, a Vienna weekly known for its investigative reporting, was preparing to publish an article about it on Wednesday.

According to a summary of the Falter article, Israilov's lawyers wanted Kadyrov to be arrested while in Salzburg for a Euro 2008 soccer match. Jarosch confirmed this detail.

On Jan. 13, Israilov was fatally shot as he walked out of a grocery store in Austria's capital, and human rights activists have said the killing was connected to his opposition to Chechnya's pro-Moscow president.

Israilov had been detained in Chechnya as a separatist rebel, then was given amnesty, and briefly became a bodyguard to Kadyrov in Chechnya. Israilov ultimately fled Chechnya for Europe.

Jarosch said that Israilov had claimed in his complaint in Austria that Kadyrov had personally tortured him in Chechnya.

Chechnya, part of Russia, is an autonomous republic that lies along Russia's restive south.

Kadyrov often has been accused of human rights abuses and of ruling Chechnya with an iron fist - claims he denies.

Austrian police have been criticized for not providing Israilov with police protection prior to his assassination after having been warned in early summer that his life was in danger.

Police have said they don't know if the killing was politically motivated, but they recently arrested eight suspects in the dissident's assassination, all of the Chechens. Five remain in custody, but none of them have been charged.

Authorities also have said Israilov's name appeared on an online list - dubbed a "death list" by the media. Police were still trying to find out who compiled and posted it on the Internet.

Police have said their investigation located two casings from bullets that corresponded to the type of weapon used to kill Israilov.

Alleged abuses in Chechnya were brought to international attention with the 2006 shooting death of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative reporter who wrote prolifically for an independent newspaper on the subject.

Politkovskaya, who regularly traveled to Chechnya to interview victims and whistleblowers, was gunned down in her central Moscow apartment building in an attack investigators linked to her profession.

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AP correspondent David Nowak contributed to this article from Moscow.

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