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11 Aug, 2009 15:09

Two human rights activists found dead in Chechnya

Two Chechen human rights activists have been found dead after being kidnapped in the republic on Monday.

Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were members of the Chechen “Save the Generation” charity.

The Republic’s Interior Ministry says their bodies were found in the trunk of their car in a suburb of the capital Grozny. They had gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

The Russian Prosecutor’s Office is conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances of the incident.

"A group of experts from the Prosecutor's Investigative Committee has flown to Grozny to help solve this case," Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

So far it has been established that the couple was abducted from the UNICEF office at around 2pm on Monday by unidentified gunmen wearing masks and fatigues.

The abductions followed last month's kidnapping and killing of another prominent activist Natalya Estemirova.

Meanwhile, the Chechen president says the murder could have been connected to Alik Dzhabrailov’s past. According to Ramzan Kadyrov, the human rights activist used to be a member of a militant group.

“Zarema Sadulayeva’s husband was, as I’ve been told, sentenced for being part of an armed gang, and perhaps back when Alik Dzhabrailov was a militant he was connected to the murder of Chechens, which could lead to a blood feud,” - says Kadyrov.

At the same time, the Chechen leader denounced the crime, saying it was an attempt to destabilize society.

"I find it a matter of personal dignity to make the agencies of law and order take all-embracing measures towards solving this crime as early as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, a board member of the Memorial human rights organization, Alexander Cherkasov, believes that investigators have all the clues they need to solve the case quickly.

"The abductors' car is known and so is its license plate number. These people have been seen. They were not hiding,” he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. "Any professional police officer could have investigated this, were he authorized and allowed to do so."

The “Save the Generation” charity has been working in Chechnya since 2001, helping children and teenagers who have suffered from mortar bombs and other explosions.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, a colleague of the murdered couple, said that she is astonished they have been killed in such a brutal way.

”These people were helping handicapped children in Chechnya and I should say there are a lot of them there,” she said. “I do not understand how they could make someone so angry.”

Chechen NGOs and activists speak out

Meanwhile, some of the country’s NGOs and human rights organizations have issued a joint statement, in which they said that the killing of the activists was aimed at “undermining positive processes that are happening in the Chechen republic.”

”Criminals choose victims in order to cause big negative resonance in Russia and worldwide,” said the statement, signed by the head of the republic’s Public Chamber Said-Emin Dzhabrailov.

The statement noted that recent cynical murders are supposed to “cause the feeling of uncertainty in Chechnya” and to persuade the world community that the Chechen peace is unstable.

Activists added that the killing was scheduled to coincide with the work of the government commission on the North Caucasus’ social problems in Kislovodsk, headed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

”Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov also took part in the meeting,” the statement said. “We have no doubt that Sadulayeva and her husband’s abduction and killing is aimed at the disruption of Russian policies in the North Caucasus, in particular against Chechnya and its leadership.”