Qatari court continues to hear Yandarbiyev murder case

A Qatari court will continue to hear the case of two Russian citizens charged with the murder of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen separatist leader, on Monday.

Cross-examination of prosecution witnesses began on Sunday, the press service of the law firm that is representing the Russians along with local lawyers, Yegorov, Pugachinsky, Afanasyev and Partners, told RIA Novosti.

According to Ilya Levitov, the law firm's press secretary, the session will continue on Monday.

A civil court in Qatar is hearing the Russian citizens' case.

"At the moment the conditions of the Russian citizens are normal," Mr. Levitov said.

At the request of the defence the court hearings on Sunday were held in a closed session with members of Mr. Yandarbiyev's family and representatives of Russia's Embassy in Qatar present.

Dmitri Afanasyev (a partner at Yegorov, Pugachinsky, Afanasyev and Partners) told the Vesti Nedeli (a news program on the Rossia television channel) on Sunday: "we received about 1,000 pages of hand-written text in Arabic on approximately April 13. The translation took a certain amount of time and the defense received the materials in Russian literally 4-5 days ago. Despite this, we familiarized ourselves with these material and, in my opinion, they do not contain any proof of our defendants' complicity in the crime they are charged with."

"According to our defendants' testimony which has already been read in the Qatari court, they were beaten, deprived of sleep, and in some cases special dogs were set on them," the lawyer said.

"Under Qatari law and in accordance with the New York anti-torture convention of 1984, confessions received through torture cannot be used as evidence."

Mr. Yandarbiyev, a Chechen separatist leader who lived in Qatar for the past three years, died on February 13, when a bomb exploded in his Toyota Landcruiser.

On the night of February 18 in Doha, the Qatari secret services arrested three Russian citizens who were in Qatar on a business trip. They were accused of being involved in Mr. Yandarbiyev's assassination.

One of the detainees, First Secretary of the Russian Federation's Embassy in Qatar Aleksandr Fetisov who had diplomatic immunity, was released and returned to Russia on March 24.

On February 26, official charges of premeditated murder were brought against two Russian citizens.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that everything necessary was being done to free the Russian citizens in Qatar.

He did not comment on the chances of the Russian citizens being released. "The situation is very delicate, I will not comment on it," Mr. Lavrov said.

Moscow demands that the Russian citizens be released, because their arrest was groundless. According to a statement by Russia's Foreign Ministry, the Russian citizens "were legally staying in Qatar and were fulfilling information-analytical tasks, connected to countering international terrorism, without violating any local laws."

Russia will continue making efforts to bring the Russian diplomats, detained in Qatar, back to their homeland, Aleskandr Yakovenko, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, stated.

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