Sharia Court of Qatar has sentenced two Russians accused of murdering former Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to life imprisonment.
Yandarbiev was killed on February 13 as a bomb blew up his Toyota Land Cruiser as he came out of a mosque. For three years before his death he had lived in Qatar as a refugee denied a right to engage in political activity.
On the night February 19 Qatari secret services in Doha arrested three Russian citizens on mission in Qatar and accused them of Yandarbiev's murder.
Later one of the detainees was freed because of his diplomatic immunity. On March 24 he returned to Russia.
The trial of the two others began in Doha on April 11.
Moscow insists that the Russians are innocent and urges Qatar to free them. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Russian citizens "were staying lawfully in Qatar and fulfilled their information analysis mission as part of joint effort against international terrorism without any violations of the local legislation."
Russian representatives have emphasized that the Russians were seized illegally and violently. During the investigation the detainees were also subjected to psychological and physical exertion.
Right after the sentence was passed, a speaker for the Russian Embassy to Qatar said over the telephone that the defense (in compliance with the Qatari legislation, the defense is represented in court by two attorneys - a Qatari subject and an Egyptian American; four Russian lawyers are responsible for out-of-court support) would appeal the sentence.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who is now attending an annual ASEAN meeting in Jakarta told reporters as he became aware of the sentence that Moscow continues to believe that the Russians convicted in Qatar have nothing to do with Yandarbiev's murder.
"With due respect towards the justice procedures of the State of Qatar, our lawyers will appeal the decision. We will continue to insist on having our citizens returned home as soon as possible," the minister said.
Chairman of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament) Committee on International Affairs Mikhail Margelov told RIA Novosti that the Qatari court seemed to be deciding the fate of the two Russians with only two options at hand: a bad outcome (current sentence) and a very bad one (capital punishment).
"Qatari laws do not stipulate lighter punishment for people convicted of such a crime," the Russian senator said.
According to Margelov, "the accusation has not been proven." "We are absolutely sure of that," the legislator emphasized.
The Russian senator said he was assured the sentence would be appealed.
"Should the courts of superior jurisdiction sustain the case of the prosecution, we will apply to the Emir of Qatar for pardon," Margelov said.
He went on to explain that the Qatari legislation does not leave many options where accused foreigners are concerned, therefore any issues should be negotiated as cautiously as possible. "That is why we had been so reserved before the trial," he said and added, "We will continue acting in the same manner."
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