Duma to hear report on Russians' trial in Qatar

Russia's State Duma (lower house of parliament) will hear a report by deputy foreign minister on the trial of Russian citizens in Qatar.

Andrei Kokoshin, the chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs and Ties with Compatriots, suggested that the State Duma hear the Foreign Ministry's report. He did not specify who would represent the Foreign Ministry at the meeting with State Duma deputies.

The meeting will be a closed meeting.

Two Russian citizens are still being held in Qatar and are accused of organising the murder of a Chechen separatist leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

Mr. Yandarbiyev was killed on February 13, 2004 in Doha. Russian special service officers are accused of his assassination.

The defendants said in court that they had been beaten, deprived of sleep and chased by dogs several times.

During the hearings, eight witnesses for the prosecution testified. "They were Qatari law enforcement officers, who mainly retold their search and interrogation protocols," said Ilya Levitov, spokesman for the Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasyev and Partners law firm, which is representing the interests of the Russians at the hearings in Qatar.

Three Russian citizens, who were on a business trip in Qatar, were arrested in the early hours of February 19 by Qatari special services.

Alexander Fetisov, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Qatar and one of the men arrested, was later released and returned home on March 24.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly denied the charges and insisted that the Russians be released.

At the preliminary court session on April 11, the Russians pleaded not guilty.

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