Russian activists shocked after Chechen's 'hope symbol' killed

Right activists sais that the murdering of Chechen girl's lawyer was as shocking as the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskya.

Russian activists shocked after Chechen's 'hope symbol' killed

Right activists sais that the murdering of Chechen girl's lawyer was as shocking as the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskya.

Stanislav Markelov acted for the family of 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva, whose murder in 2000 became a symbol of human rights abuses in war-ravaged Chechnya.

Markelov, 34, had led legal attempts to block the early release of Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov, who was convicted of her murder. Mostly Muslim Chechnya was rocked by protests last month when a court ruled Budanov should be released.

Prosecutors said Markelov's body was found with several gunshot wounds on one of Moscow's main streets. He had just given a briefing to reporters. "What happened to Markelov is just outrageous," said Tanya Lokshina, deputy head of Human Rights Watch in Moscow. She called the murder as shocking as the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskya, a journalist and outspoken Kremlin critic who reported on human rights abuses in Chechnya.
"For those in Chechnya, (Markelov's) name was a symbol of hope that you can find justice and the guilty will be punished," Lokshina said.

"It's terrible that this has become a grim reality of our life," said Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer for Politkovskaya's family. "This is a country in which murders of those defending human rights are now becoming everyday routine."

London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International urged the Russian authorities to investigate the murder "promptly, fully and objectively".

"Stanislav Markelov"s murder is a despicable crime," said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Programme director. "Silencing those who defend human rights and work to uphold the rule of law is absolutely unacceptable."

Anastasia Baburova, a trainee reporter from Politkovskaya's Novaya Gazeta who had been investigating neo-Nazism in Russia, was shot along with Markelov. She died later in hospital.

War crime

Kungayeva's murder in 2000 provoked a storm of protest in Chechnya. Her family said she had been raped and murdered in a drunken rampage by Russian troops.

Budanov was arrested in 2000, charged with her murder and later jailed for 10 years, the highest-ranking Russian officer to be imprisoned for war crimes in Chechnya.

He was freed early last Thursday, triggering a wave of indignation in Chechnya, where one local official said he should be killed according to the region's tradition of blood feuds.

Kungayeva's father said Markelov had received death threats on his mobile phone over recent days.

"We are shocked," Visa Kungayev told Reuters from Norway where his family lives in exile. "He said last Thursday he was receiving text messages with threats. I told him: 'Well, let's stop it then.' But he said: 'No, Visa, let's push ahead'."

He said Markelov had planned to appeal to the Strasbourg- based European Court of Human Rights if Russia's Supreme Court turned down his new complaint against Budanov's early release.

"This murder shows that political murder becomes the decisive factor in Russia's social life, and the use of force -- the main argument against a personality," Russia's liberal Yabloko party said in a statement.

Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika said he had taken Markelov's murder investigation under his personal control.

Reuters
Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2009, 11:12
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