Other than the two defendants, present at the criminal court hearing were Russian lawyers advising the Qatari defence lawyer.

According to Qatari law "only Arab lawyers can participate in pleading before the court," a judicial source said.

In what has escalated into a diplomatic row between the tiny Gulf emirate and Russia, Qatar expelled the first secretary of the Russian embassy late last month after detaining him and the agents in connection with the murder of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in a car bomb explosion on 13 February.
 
Qataris detained

Qatar's expulsion announcement was made just hours after the return to Doha of two Qatari nationals who were released by Moscow.

The  wreck of Yandarbiyev's
car which was blown up

The two members of the Gulf state's wrestling federation were arrested in transit at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on 26 February on suspicion of carrying undeclared foreign currency.

The Russian foreign ministry said the two - Nasir Ibrahim Saad al-Madhihiki and Ibrahim Ahmad Nasir Ahmad - were freed in the absence of any evidence that they had broken the law.

Their detention followed Doha's arrest of the two Russian intelligence agents.

Russian demand

Russia has demanded Qatar should free the two agents, saying they had nothing to do with Yandarbiyev's murder and that they had been posted to the Russian embassy to help in the "fight against terrorism", in particular terror financing.

Moscow's SVR foreign intelligence service also said it had nothing to do with the death of Yandarbiyev, who briefly headed Russia's war-torn separatist republic of Chechnya in the mid-1990s.

Yandarbiyev, who had lived in Qatar for nearly three years with his family despite a Russian extradition request, was believed to have raised funds for Chechen fighters in the Muslim world.

He was killed a week after a bomb, blamed on Chechen resistance fighters, tore through a crowded subway train in Moscow, killing at least 40 people.