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6 Oct, 2009 14:40

Chechen president awarded libel damages

On Tuesday a court in Moscow has satisfied in part the lawsuit taken by the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov who was demanding an apology from the human rights group “Memorial”.

Kadyrov was awarded a public apology and 70,000 rubles ($2,350) in libel damages from “Memorial” and its head, Oleg Orlov.

Kadyrov had sued the “Memorial” for damaging his reputation following a statement by Orlov connecting his name with the murder of activist Natalya Estemirova.

Natalya Estemirova was a journalist and human rights activist who worked and lived in Chechnya. She was kidnapped in July in the republic's capital, Grozny, and later found dead in neighbouring Ingushetia.

Orlov’s claims were published on the Internet, and the court ruled there was not enough evidence for such serious accusations.

Initially, Kadyrov demanded some 10 million rubles ($320,000), but the court lowered the compensation to 70,000, of which Orlov is to pay only 20,000 rubles. The rest is to be paid by “Memorial”.

Nevertheless, Kadyrov’s lawyer, Andrey Krasnenkov, said he’s satisfied with the decision of the court and won’t appeal it.

“We believe that the defendant failed to prove the validity of the events. The witnesses from the defendant’s side referred only to the words of Estemirova herself, while our witnesses have seen how Ramzan Kadyrov and Natalya Estemirova communicated, or to be more precise, how they didn’t communicate,” the lawyer said. “We managed to totally refute the claims. And what matters most is that everyone now knows it was libel.”

Meanwhile, Orlov said he blames Kadyrov for creating a hostile climate for human rights groups and journalists working in the Republic, and that he’s going to appeal the court’s decision.

“I don't agree with the court's decision, of course. So, we will appeal to the Russian court once again, and then we'll have to go to the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.

Meanwhile, before the end of the hearing, news of another lawsuit regarding the Chechen president emerged. This time Kadyrov is taking legal actions against the Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta and its news editor-in-chief, accusing him of libel.

Novaya Gazeta published a report claiming Kadyrov was connected to the death of one of his former bodyguard, who received political asylum in Europe. The two sides already faced off in court when Kadyrov won more than $3000 in compensation last April.