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    Court awards Chechen president $2,300 in libel damages

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    A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the Memorial human rights group and its head Oleg Orlov to pay Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov 70,000 rubles ($2,350) in libel damages.

    MOSCOW, October 6 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the Memorial human rights group and its head Oleg Orlov to pay Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov 70,000 rubles ($2,350) in libel damages.

    Orlov had accused Kadyrov of involvement in the murder of rights activist Natalya Estemirova in the troubled North Caucasus republic in July.

    Kadyrov had sought 10 million rubles ($320,000), but the court ruled that Orlov must pay 20,000 rubles and Memorial 50,000. Orlov said he would appeal.

    In the aftermath of the discovery of Estemirova's body, Orlov said : "I know, I am certain who is to blame for the murder of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this person. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic."

    Orlov later said he had referred to Kadyrov's overall responsibility as president for the situation in the republic. He refused however to retract the accusation.

    Estemirova, a leading Memorial researcher in Chechnya, was abducted outside her home in Grozny, Chechnya's capital, on July 15 and found shot dead in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia later the same day.

    Her murder, which caused international outrage, was followed three weeks later by the killings of Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, who both worked for a Chechen charity.

    Kadyrov's lawyer said on Tuesday that his client has also filed a libel suit against the chief editor and several reporters at the Novaya Gazeta daily.

    Andrei Krasnenkov said an article in the paper had linked Kadyrov to the killing of former presidential bodyguard Umar Israilov in Vienna in January.

    Israilov fled Chechnya and was granted political asylum in Austria, where he was murdered on January 13, 2009, as the New York Times prepared to publish an article on his allegations, detailed in submissions to the European Court of Human Rights. The murder was one in a string of assassinations of high-profile critics of the Chechen leadership.

    A former separatist who fought against Russia in the First Chechen War, Kadyrov and his security services have been accused of human rights abuses. He denies the allegations.

     

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