Hearings for Russians charged with murder to resume in Qatar court

On Sunday, May 9, the Shariah Court in the capital of Qatar, Doha, is to resume hearings for two Russian nationals suspected of involvement in the assassination of Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, the Qatari newspaper ar-Raya reports.

According to the newspaper, the court has interrogated the Russian suspects and has heard, behind closed doors, testimonies from 13 witnesses, in the presence of Yandarbiyev's family.

The man was killed February 13, 2004, in a blast caused by a car bomb. He spent the last three years of his life in Qatar. Here, he had refugee status, with no right to engage in political activity.

In the early hours of February 19, Qatari special services detained three Russian nationals on suspicion of complicity in Yandarbiyev's murder. One of the detainees, being the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Doha, was released because of his diplomatic immunity, and returned to Russia on February 24.

On February 26, the other two suspects were indicted for premeditated murder.

Moscow is demanding the release of the Russian nationals, claiming that their arrest was groundless. Russia's Foreign Ministry has pointed out in a statement that the men were staying in Qatar legally and that they were performing, without any violation of local legislation, analytical tasks related to the fight against international terrorism.

The defendants may face death penalty if convicted. But experts say such an outcome is unlikely as the Emir of Qatar, Sheik at-Tani, will in all probability issue a decree pardoning the convicts.

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