Qatar jails Russians for killing Chechen rebel

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The Independent Online

Two Russian intelligence officers were jailed for life by a Qatari court yesterday for assassinating the Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The judge said the car bombing in February had been approved by the Russian leadership and involved the Russian embassy in Qatar.

Two Russian intelligence officers were jailed for life by a Qatari court yesterday for assassinating the Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The judge said the car bombing in February had been approved by the Russian leadership and involved the Russian embassy in Qatar.

Commenting on the verdict, Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy head of Russia's State Duma's security committee, said: "It is a pretty serious slap in the face for Russia and first of all its President. We need to put it bluntly, we've screwed up."

Yandarbiyev, who had been linked to terrorism by Russia, Washington and the United Nations, was killed when his car was destroyed by a bomb as he drove from a Doha mosque on 13 February. His teenage son was injured. The agents, who have not been officially identified, were arrested soon afterwards. Russia has denied involvement in the killing and has said the defendants were agents gathering intelligence about terrorism.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said: "Moscow, as before, considers the two Russian citizens who were detained in Qatar were not involved in the attack."

The agents' Russian lawyers said they would appeal on the grounds that the arrests violated their diplomatic immunity, that their confessions were obtained through torture, and that Qatar's Supreme Criminal Court had not investigated the torture reports and failed to address the lack of credible evidence. Sergei Markov, from the Institute of Political Research in Moscow, said the verdict "indicated that the Qatar authorities do not consider Yandarbiyev as a criminal who had been financing terrorist groups". Washington should join Moscow in pressing for a pardon, he said, because "Russia and the United States are in the same anti-terrorism coalition".

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