We were framed, claim Chechen murder suspects

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The Independent Online

Friends and lawyers of the two Chechen businessmen accused of Russia's most notorious contract killing of the year - the drive-by shooting of the American investigative journalist Paul Klebnikov - claimed yesterday that the pair had been framed by the police.

Friends and lawyers of the two Chechen businessmen accused of Russia's most notorious contract killing of the year - the drive-by shooting of the American investigative journalist Paul Klebnikov - claimed yesterday that the pair had been framed by the police.

Mr Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was killed in July after he had just left his office in north-central Moscow two months after publishing Russia's first rich list.

The case had seemed intractable until last Tuesday when Vladimir Pronin, Moscow's police chief, unexpectedly announced that two Chechens, Aslan Sagaev and Kazbek Elmurzaev, had been held over the killing and that one of the murder weapons had been found in their possession. The police chief said the case was all but solved. Serious doubts have emerged about the evidence and neither man has been charged. Instead they are being held on suspicion of kidnapping Akhmed-Pashi Aliyev, a banker, and for possessing firearms - three pistols were found in their flat, including one allegedly used to kill Mr Klebnikov.

An August issue of Forbes was also found. Both men deny they had anything to do with the murder and say they have never seen the pistols before. A lawyer representing the Chechens, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested yesterday that the men had been set up.

Police chief Pronin has been criticised by the Klebnikov case's lead investigators for going public with the allegations, something they say he had no right to do.

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