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    KHAMBIYEV WHO LAID DOWN ARMS MAY BE EXONERATED, CHECHNYA'S PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE SAYS

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    GROZNY, March 9, 2004 - RIA Novosti. The Prosecutor's Office of the Chechen Republic told RIA Novosti that one of the leaders of the illegal armed formations, Magomed Khambiyev, who laid down arms, may be released from a criminal punishment.

    "The appendix to Articles 208 (participation in an illegal armed formation) and 222 (illegal keeping of arms) provides for releasing from a criminal punishment in case of voluntary withdrawal from the band and voluntary surrender of arms," the source said.

    He added that "if Khambiyev was not involved in other crimes he would be released from a criminal punishment." According to him, a check of Khambiyev's implication in other crimes has already started.

    The spokesman for the Regional Operational Staff for controlling the counterterrorist operation in the North Caucasus, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, told RIA Novosti by telephone that it is still too early to speak of amnesty of the so-called "Defence Minister of Ichkeria." "We have information that Khambiyev surrendered to Kadyrov's security service but it is early to say that he has been amnestied," Shabalkin said.

    He went on to say that "the Prosecutor's Office of Chechnya is now engaged in this procedure, and a surrender is likely to be formalized on March 9." Colonel Shabalkin explained that Chechnya's Prosecutor's Office takes decisions on amnesty of militants, who have laid down arms, after verifying their involvement in grave crimes.

    According to him, 21 people from Khambiyev's detachment laid down arms on March 5. "In all probability, this impelled him (Khambiyev) to surrender to the republic's authorities," the Staff spokesman added.

    Magomed Khambiyev gave himself up and laid down arms at Centoroi settlement on March 8. He surrendered to representatives of the security service of Chechnya's president Akhmad Kadyrov.

    "According to the law-enforcement bodies' information, Khambiyev practically stayed idle for the past eighteen months," Colonel Shabalkin said. "But before that he took an active part in the illegal armed formations."

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