Trial of Russians in Qatar postponed for a month

The next court date of the Russian citizens accused of assassinating Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen separatist leader, will be held in four weeks, Ilya Levitin, a spokesman for the Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasyev and Partners law firm.

Both of the accused, representatives of the Qatari court and four lawyers (a Qatari, an American and two Russians) attended a preliminary hearing on Sunday. A charge, which was prepared following the preliminary investigation, was read at the hearing. The judge asked the accused if they pleaded guilty.

The Russian citizens refuted the charge and pleaded not guilty, Mr. Levitin said.

The defense demanded that all the materials of the case be submitted for a thorough examination, that the lawyers be given free access to their clients, and that the trial date be postponed to allow them to prepare.

"The judge satisfied all of the defense's demands and set the date for the next meeting of the court in four weeks," Mr. Levitin said.

Mr. Yandarbiyev lived in Qatar for the past three years, died when his Toyota Landcruiser exploded on February 13.

On February 19 in Doha, the Qatari secret services arrested three Russian citizens who were in Qatar on a business trip. They were charged with Mr. Yandarbiyev's murder.

Alexander Fetisov, the first secretary of Russia's embassy in Qatar, was one of the men arrested. He was released and returned to Russia on February 24 because he had diplomatic immunity.

An official charge with a premeditated murder was brought against two Russian citizens on February 26.

Moscow demanded the release of the Russian citizens as their arrest was groundless. According to an official statement by Russia's Foreign Ministry, the Russian citizens "were legally staying in Qatar and were fulfilling analytical duties, relating to countering international terrorism, without violating the local laws in any way."

"We presented the Qatari leadership with the demand that the Russian citizens be given a chance to return to their homeland without interference," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated earlier.

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