Moscow’s Tverskoi district court yesterday (October 6) ordered the Memorial rights group Chairman Oleg Orlov to retract his statement that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was responsible for the death of Natalya Estemirova, the Memorial activist kidnapped in the Chechen capital Grozny and found murdered in Ingushetia on July 15.
Kadyrov had asked for 10 million rubles ($330,000) in damages, but Judge Tatyana Fedosova ruled that Memorial and Orlov should only pay 70,000 rubles ($2,300) –50,000 rubles (around $1,650) from Memorial and 20,000 rubles (around $660) from Orlov (RIA Novosti, October 6). As the Associated Press noted, Orlov never said he had evidence of Kadyrov’s direct involvement in Estemirova’s murder but repeatedly blamed him for it, citing an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity which he said Kadyrov fostered (AP, October 6).
Orlov said he would appeal the decision in Russia, and if necessary in the European Court of Human Rights, but would retract the statement if he lost. “I consider this our victory because the court case to a large degree became a discussion about the guilt of Ramzan Kadyrov,” Reuters quoted Orlov as saying. “I consider we convincingly proved this guilt. We will continue to talk about this in courts at various levels,” Orlov said. “I understand I shouldn’t have expected any other decision in today’s Russia,” he added (Reuters, October 6).
During the trial, four people testified on Orlov’s behalf –Tatyana Lokshina, the Deputy Chief of the Moscow bureau of Human Rights Watch; Memorial activist Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya; Svetlana Gannushkina, the Chairwoman of the Civil Assistance Committee; Aleksandr Mnatsakanyan, a human rights activist and journalist. Mnatsakanyan said Estemirova seriously feared Kadyrov. “She was a brave person,” he said. “But a brave person is not one who is unafraid, but one who does not show their fear. And judging by my conversations with her, Natasha had grounds for fearing Kadyrov. I talked with people who claimed that Kadyrov used violence against them. Now those people are dead,” he continued (www.kavkaz-uzel,ru, October 6).
Kadyrov, for his part, welcomed yesterday’s court decision. “I am pleased with the outcome,” he said. “It would be wrong to ask whether I agree with the court ruling. Any law-abiding citizen must accept a court decision as the right one, since people go to court in the first place to establish the truth,” he explained. The point of the suit “was not to punish Orlov,” he added. “I sought from the very outset to explain to Orlov that he is wrong, and very politely and tactfully laid out my position on the issue,” Kadyrov suggested (RIA Novosti, October 6). The Russian News Service quoted Kadyrov’s lawyer Andrei Krasnenkov as calling the victory “great” and saying he and his client were “99 percent” satisfied with the verdict. But AP quoted Krasnenkov as saying of the damages levied by the judge: “It is a pity the amount is so small, it would have been a good lesson to other liars” (AP, October 6).
Kadyrov has asked prosecutors to launch a criminal case against the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta military columnist Vyacheslav Izmailov and several other staffers. Krasnenkov said yesterday that Kadyrov’s complaint concerns a Novaya Gazeta article about the murder of former Kadyrov bodyguard Umar Israilov. As the Newsru.com website noted, the article in question is probably “Vienna Murder,” which was published on February 4 of this year. Krasnenkov said that as a result of linguistic expert examination, it has been established that the article slandered Kadyrov (www.newsru.com, October 6). Various other media, including the New York Times, detailed Israilov’s accusations against Kadyrov, including the allegation that he personally tortured prisoners.
Meanwhile, today (October 7) is the third anniversary of the murder of Novaya Gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, and her editor at the paper, Sergei Sokolov, said yesterday that the investigators have new suspects “in their field of vision.” But Sokolov refused to identify the new suspects or say how they might have been involved. Three suspects accused of playing minor roles in the murder were acquitted by a Moscow jury in February. The Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and sent the case back to the prosecutors. However, the court last month ordered an expanded investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder, and the lead prosecutor in the case told the Moscow Times that the ruling meant that the retrial, which had been scheduled to begin in September, might not occur until police arrest the suspected triggerman, whose whereabouts is unknown (AP, October 6; The Moscow Times, September 4).
The Rosbalt news agency reported today that the new suspects include a former Moscow policeman, Oleg Shoshin, a businessman and four men from Azerbaijan and Dagestan. However, Sokolov told Interfax that Shoshin is not a suspect (Rosbalt, Interfax, October 7).