Last week’s Moskovskie novosti reported that the two Russian intelligence-agents sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Chechen extremist in Qatar have filed an appeal to a higher court. RIA Novosti reported on July 15 that the appeal will not be considered by the Qatari judicial system until its two-month summer vacation ends in October.
But the daily Kommersant warned on July 15 that the appeal process might actually put the defendants in greater danger. One of the oddities of Qatar’s justice system is that an appeal gives the prosecution a chance to seek a harsher sentence than the one handed down by the lower court. Thus it is entirely possible, as strange as it may seem by Western standards, for the prison terms to be turned into death sentences. A former justice minister of Qatar reminded the Moscow newspaper that this actually happened in an espionage case. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continues to insist that the accused Russians are innocent.