Prosecutors support Kadyrov’s libel suit against human rights activist

Ramzan Kadyrov (RIA Novosti / Said Carnaev)
The lawyer of the Chechen leader and prosecutors insist the guilt of Oleg Orlov, the head of the Memorial human rights center, accused by the Chechen leader of libel, has been proven.

­During proceedings in Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court on Thursday, a prosecutor proposed that Memorial head Oleg Orlov should pay 150,000 rubles (about $5,400) in fines in a libel action. The guilt of the human rights activist has been proven, the prosecution says.

Orlov had alleged that Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya could have been “personally or indirectly” involved in the abduction of Memorial activist Natalia Estemirova in the Chechen capital Grozny in June 2009. Later she was found dead with gunshot wounds in the neighboring Republic of Ingushetia.

Kadyrov denied the accusation and filed a defamation suit against Orlov in July 2010. In April this year he took part in a TV linkup from Grozny to tell the court he felt deeply insulted by Orlov’s statement. He asked the court to pass a sentence “according to law.” But his lawyer Andrey Krasnenkov, demanded that Orlov be sentenced to the maximum punishment on this article of the Criminal Code – three years in prison.

Orlov had already been fined by Moscow’s Tverskoy Court in a civil case, but later the criminal case was initiated against him after Kadyrov filed a new suit.

Krasnenkov is certain the court will find Orlov guilty of libel. At the same time, he expects the sentence to be unfair. “To pass a fair sentence, the judge has to visit Chechnya to understand how the defendant’s words are different from reality,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. According to the lawyer, human rights activists have “exerted pressure” on the court during the whole process that has lasted for nine months.

Kadyrov’s lawyer said that even schoolchildren in Chechnya discussed Orlov’s statements. The accusation “has become a tragedy” for the family of Chechnya’s head, Krasnenkov stressed.

Prosecutors want a milder punishment, but they also said Orlov’s guilt has been proven by Kadyrov’s testimony, material evidence and linguistic assessment. The criminal case initiated after Estemirova’s murder does not contain any materials proving Kadyrov’s involvement either, they noted.

Orlov’s lawyer, Genri Reznik, insists the Memorial head did not say that Kadyrov was an accomplice in the crime and the accusation rather concerns Kadyrov’s “political guilt.” Orlov’s statements do not contain a direct accusation of crime, Reznik noted.

Orlov himself reiterated his position about “Kadyrov’s guilt,” but stressed he did not accuse him of direct involvement.

During the hearings in April, Chechnya’s head said that he needed Estemirova’s work as a human rights activist in Chechnya and “never threatened her.” However, he stressed her work in the republic was not “helpful.”