Investigators botched probe into Estemirova’s killing – report

Natalia Estimirova (RIA Novosti)
The Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights says they possess proof investigators have deliberately botched the probe into the killing of rights activist Natalya Estemirova, while losing physical evidence that could have shed light on the crime.

­The Human Rights Council on Thursday presented the results of the independent investigation into the death of Natalya Estemirova – the Chechen rights activist who was abducted and killed in Chechnya in July 2009 (her body was discovered soon after the abduction in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia). The report concludes that the investigation had not sufficiently presented enough proof that the crime was committed by Alkhanzur Bashayev – an Islamist militant who was killed in an air raid in November 2009.

“Investigators do not possess any serious proof of Alkhanzur Bashayev’s complicity in Natalya Estemirova’s abduction and murder. On the contrary, the evidence contained in the materials of the criminal case leads one to suspect the premeditative rigging of these materials in order to make Bashayev version the main one”, the summary of the report reads.

"The report especially noted that the investigators had not exhausted all the available means of  DNA testing, though they had exhausted all of the DNA samples, making repeat testing impossible.  “In the independent investigation, we have compared the DNA of Alkazur Bashayev’s brother, Anzor Bashayev and the DNA profiled from the criminal case materials," the document reads.

According to the document, the results do not allow for the confirmation or rejection of the version implicating Alkhazur Bashayev in the crime, adding that one thing can be stated with confidence – the unknown person whose sweat marks were found on Estemirova’s blouse was neither Alkazur’s nor Anzor Bashayev’s.

The killing of rights activist Estemirova and the investigation of this killing generated public outcry both in Russia and even on the international scale. Soon after the crime was committed, the head of the Russian Human Rights center Memorial, Oleg Orlov, said that the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, was involved in the murder. And while Kadyrov sued Orlov, in mid-June 2011 a court ruled that he had not slandered Kadyrov as he was not knowingly lying in accordance with the standards which govern libel cases in Russia. 

In an official statement in March 2010, Kadyrov blamed international terrorists for Estemirova’s murder. Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the Russian Investigation Committee, said in September 2010 that investigators and the police had established the person who had committed the murder, and that the person was on the territory of the Russian Federation as measures had been taken to detain him.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that the killings of human rights activists were committed in order to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus region as he ordered an additional investigation to be conducted by the Human Rights Council.