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    TRIAL IN QATAR: TWO RUSSIANS DECLARE INNOCENCE OF YANDARBIYEV'S MURDER

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    CAIRO, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - At a trial being held in the capital of Qatar two Russians rejected the charges of murdering former Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a source in Doha said over the telephone.

    According to the source, the trial read out the charges brought against the Russian citizens by the Prosecutor's Office of Qatar (a tiny Arab emirate in the Persian Gulf). However, the defendants pleaded not guilty.

    The next court's session is scheduled for April 25.

    50-year-old Yandarbiyev who lived in Qatar from 2000 on the basis, as he put it, of the rights of an honorary guest of Qatar Emir, Sheikh At-Tani but actually stayed in the emirate as a refugee without the rights of political activity died when a Toyota-Landcruiser car exploded on February 13.

    On the night of February 18-19 the Qatar intelligence services arrested in Doha three Russian citizens who were on a business trip in Qatar. They were charged with complicity in the murder of Yandarbiyev who had been, for some time after the death of the first president [of independent Ichkeria] (this is how the irreconcilable fighters call Chechnya) Dzhokhar Dudayev on April 21 1996 and until the election of Aslan Maskhadov to that post on January 27, 1997, a temporary head of Ichkeria.

    One of the detained persons, first secretary of the Russian embassy to Qatar Alexander Fetisov who enjoyed diplomatic immunity was released and on March 24 returned to Russia.

    On February 26 the charges of premeditated murder were officially brought against the two Russian citizens.

    Moscow demands the release of the Russian citizens because their arrest was unfounded. As the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry noted, the Russian citizens "stayed in Qatar on legitimate grounds and performed without any violation of the local legislation information and analytical tasks linked with measures to counter international terrorism."

    "We have applied to the Qatar leadership with the demand to grant the Russian citizens the possibility to return freely to their home land," Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said.

    Russia will take efforts to ensure the return of the Russian citizens detained in Qatar to their home land," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

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