Qatar extradites two Russian agents convicted of killing Chechen ex-president

Russian lawyers may find a plausible excuse to release the two special agents

The Qatar government released a surprising statement on Thursday. It was said that Qatar was ready to extradite two Russian citizens, who were sentenced to lifetime imprisonment on June 30th of this year for killing the emissary of Chechen guerrillas, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The statement was issued at the moment, when Anatoli Belyashkov and Vasili Bogachev were on board a jetliner on their way to Moscow. The press service of the Russian president informed about the extradition of the above-mentioned men when the plane landed in Moscow's Vnukovo airport.

Russian citizens' arrival to Moscow does not mean that they will be freed immediately. The government of Qatar agreed to deliver the above-mentioned men if they served out the rest of their sentences in Russian jails. A special UN committee would supervise the execution of the condition. However, Russian lawyers may find a plausible excuse to release the two special agents and preserve the image of the Qatari authorities. It is noteworthy that the government of Qatar had to amend its penal code and sign a special agreement with Russia to be able to deliver Belyashkov and Bogachev.

The lawyers, who defended the two Russian citizens at court, were not at all involved in their extradition to Russia. The firm of attorneys “Yegorov, Afanasyev and Partners” had all their telephones disconnected yesterday, the Kommersant newspaper wrote. Qatari defense lawyer Mohsen Dhiab al-Suwaidi learned about the incident from a reporter – the lawyer could only thank him for the “good news.”

Qatari special services arrested three Russian citizens at night of 19 February 2004, as they were on their business trip in Qatar. The men were charged with killing Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the emissary of Chechen separatists, who was killed with a car bomb on February 13th. The secretary of the Russian embassy in Qatar was released due to his diplomatic inviolability; he returned home to Russia in March.

A Qatari court sentenced the two Russian special agents to life in prison on June 30th, but the lawyers appealed the decision.

The first session of the court of appeal took place in Doha on July 21st. The court said that the final decision on the case would be exposed on July 29th. Russian Security Council Secretary, Igor Ivanov visited Qatar on July 23rd. Ivanov had a meeting with the Crown Prince of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. However, the Qatari court dismissed the lawyers' appeal. Diplomats and politicians managed to find a way out of the situation and the Russian citizens eventually returned to their fatherland.

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Author`s name Olga Savka