It’s been less than a week since valiant Russian human rights groups Memorial won Europe’s llustrious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, but it seems that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is determined to pull the plug on any celebrations.
Kadyrov won a civil libel suit against the organization’s Chairman Oleg Orlov earlier this month, regarding the activist’s public affirmation that the Chechen leader was responsible for the murder of fellow Memorial representative Natalya Estemirova in July. Kadyrov has now opened a criminal libel suit against Orlov, which carries a prison sentence of up to three or four years.
This from the AP:
The case stems from Orlov’s statement in July that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov bore responsibility for the July abduction and killing of Natalya Estemirova, the head of Memorial’s Chechnya operation who drew Kadyrov’s ire by reporting on human rights violations there.
Orlov did not say that Kadyrov was directly involved in the killing, but said the former separatist rebel and boxer had created a climate of intimidation and impunity that encourages violent retaliation.
Kadyrov won a civil libel suit against Orlov this month, with the court ordering Orlov to pay 70,000 rubles ($2,300) in penalties and ruling that Memorial must remove Orlov’s statement from its Web site. Orlov has said he would refuse to comply.
The criminal case was opened last week at Kadyrov’s request, state news agencies RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass reported, citing Kadyrov lawyer Andrei Krasnenkov.
ITAR-Tass quoted Krasnenkov as saying that a charge of insult could be added to the case “and the overall punishment will make three or four years in prison.”
Orlov, who Memorial said was visiting Sweden, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. Memorial spokeswoman Yulia Klimova said she could not comment on the matter.
The new case underlines the pressures faced by beleaguered Russian rights activists who have sharply criticized the government’s policies in Chechnya and elsewhere but have been stonewalled by the Kremlin.
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