On March 29, a court in Grozny sentenced Sergei Lapin, an Interior Ministry OMON special-forces officer, to 11 years in a strict-regime labor camp on charges of inflicting bodily harm and exceeding his authority, Itar-Tass reported. According to investigators, Lapin, a police officer from the city of Nizhnevartovsk in the Khanty-Mansi Atonomous Area, illegally detained and severely beat Grozny resident Zelimkhan Murdalov while serving in Chechnya in 2001. The 22-year-old Murdalov was locked in an isolation cell, out of which Lapin took him the following day and drove him off to an unknown destination. Murdalov has not been seen or heard from since. Detainees who had been held in the same cell as Murdalov reportedly said that when they saw him the day after his arrest he was unconscious after being severely beaten and his body was mutilated, the Associated Press reported on March 29.
Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said Lapin’s conviction showed that Russian laws operate in Chechnya and that “the republic’s population enjoys the protection of the Russian constitution,” Itar-Tass reported. Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Vladimir Kravchenko, called the punishment “quite proportionate to Lapin’s crime,” adding that police and military “are dispatched to Chechnya not to kill, rape, or humiliate civilians.” The Mardalov family’s lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, said he was in general happy with the verdict, Novye izvestia reported on March 30. However, the newspaper quoted the victim’s father as saying that 11 years was too little for the person who had taken away Zelimkhan and that he still had not found out where to look for his son.