Qatar trial, Russian lawyers consider filing counterclaim

Russian lawyers have not, thus far, adopted a final decision whether to file counter lawsuit against the Qatari authorities for torturing two Russian nationals accused of assassinating Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, said Ilya Levitov, press secretary of the Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasyev and Partners law firm, whose lawyers act for the Russian prisoners.

The Russians said at a Sharia court session in Doha that the authorities had beaten them, had not let them sleep and even hounded dogs on them.

Mr. Levitov said the court would continue questioning witnesses on Wednesday.

Eight witnesses for the prosecution have been questioned throughout the trial. "They are Qatari law enforcers, who repeated what they themselves had written in the search and interrogation protocols," said Mr. Levitov.

There are a total of 13 witnesses for the prosecution. They were examined both by the defence lawyers led by Qatari lawyer Mohsen al-Suwaidi (only Qatari citizens are allowed to defend foreigners in the court of law in Qatar) and by prosecutors. Three Russian nationals were arrested in Qatar in the early hours of February 19 on suspicion of being part in assassinating Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who was the president of Chechnya after the assassination of president Dzhokhar Dudayev and the election of Aslan Maskhadov. Mr. Yandarbiev's car was blown up in Doha on February 13. (Mr. Yandarbiyev and his family had lived in Qatar in the last few years as refugees without the right to engage in political activities, whereas his name was on the United Nations list of international terrorists, the fact that was totally ignored by the Qatar authorities).

Alexander Fetisov, first secretary of the Russian embassy in Doha who was also arrested on February 19, was released on March 24 and has already returned to Russia.

Russia's foreign ministry has continuously insisted on the Russian nationals' innocence and demanded their release.

On February 26, the two prisoners were charged with intended killing.

The Russians denied the charge and pleaded innocent at the preliminary court hearing on April 11.

International observers agree that the two Russian security officers will be found guilty (on the charge, which envisages death penalty), but will be pardoned by Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani.

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