Colonel who tortured Russians testifies in Qatar court

The lawyers of the Russians on trial in Qatar have not ruled out that the court will continue to hear their defendants' case on Tuesday.

"It is quite possible that now, hearings will take place every day," Ilya Levitov, the press secretary of Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasyev and Partners told RIA Novosti yesterday. Lawyers from the firm are representing the Russians' interests in Qatar.

Mr. Levitov specified that Qatari court originally planned to only hold hearings on Sundays. However, the court did not finish questioning all of the witnesses Sunday, and continued to question them on Monday. At the same time, Mr. Levitov emphasized there is no exact information on the Russians' next court date.

"Now it is impossible to say how many court sessions will be held in the future. All will depend on how fast witnesses are questioned," Mr. Levitov said.

In his words, 13 witnesses are planned to be questioned during the trial.

On Monday, the court heard the prosecution's first witness, the head of the Qatar state security service, Mr. Levitov said.

According to him, on Monday, the court started hearing another prosecution witness, Colonel Dawi, the leader of the investigation group on the case.

Mr. Levitov said that when Col. Dawi appeared in court, the defendants asked for the floor and said that Colonel Dawi participated in torturing them. "In particular, in the defendants' words, Colonel Dawi hit them on the head and took part in hunting them with specially trained dogs," the law firm press secretary said. He said this happened in the first days after the Russian citizens were arrested.

"Another witness, when investigators showed him a photo to identify, recognized the driver of the minivan as another diplomat who left Qatar long before," Mr. Levitov said. "At the next questioning, this witness 'reformed' and recognized one of the defendants in the photograph, however he said that he was only 50% sure."

According to the press secretary, later this witness changed his story and said he is 100% sure that one of the defendants was the driver.

Mr. Levitov said that on April 25, when one of the Russian citizens started to make a statement in regard to Col. Dawi's participation in the torture, the judge stopped him and said this statement was to be made the following day (April 26), when Col. Dawi finished testifying.

"However, today, when he tried again to give evidence, the judge said information about torture would be made public at the end of the legal process, when the defendants give their final statement, " Mr. Levitov said.

Yesterday, Dmitri Afanasyev, a lawyer, told Vesti Nedeli, a program on the Rossia television channel: "According to the evidence the defendants already presented in the Qatari court, they were beaten, deprived of sleep, and hunted with special dogs."

The lawyer recalled that "in line with Qatari law and the 1984 New York Convention, confessions through torture cannot be used as proof."

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a leader of Chechen terrorists who lived in Qatar for the last three years, died in a car bombing on February 13.

Early in the morning on February 19, Qatar special services arrested three Russian nationals, who were in Qatar on a mission. They were accused of involvement in Mr. Yandarbiyev's murder.

One of the detainees, the first secretary of the Russian embassy in Qatar, Alexander Fetisov was released and returned home on March 24 because he had diplomatic immunity.

On February 26, the two Russians were accused of premeditated murder.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Foreign Ministry was doing everything possible to have the Russian nationals released.

Moscow demanded the release of the Russian citizens, as their arrest was ungrounded. The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said the Russian citizens "were in Qatar legally and fulfilled, without any violations of the local law, informational and analytical tasks connected with countering international terrorism."

Russia will take further steps to return the Russian diplomats home, Russian Foreign Ministry official spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

The case is being tried in civil court in Qatar.

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