Men charged over Chechen killing
Three men charged in Austria with murder of a former bodyguard of Chechnya's president.
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2010 16:01 GMT
Umar Israilov's claims of torture had led to criminal complaints against the Chechen government [EPA]

Three men have been charged in Austria in connection to the killing of a former Chechen bodyguard who acted as a whistle-blower against the province's government.

Austrian prosecutors said on Tuesday that the men, who have not yet been named, were charged with accessory to the murder of Umar Israilov.

The 27-year-old, who had previously worked for Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's pro-Russian president, was shot dead in Vienna in January 2009 following a botched kidnapping attempt.

Prosecutors said a fourth suspect, who fired the shots that killed Israilov, is believed to have fled to Russia.

Kadyrov claims

Human rights activists and investigators previously implicated Kadyrov with the crime - alleging that he had ordered the kidnapping.

But prosecutors said on Tuesday they did not have enough evidence to charge the president over Israilov's murder.

Michaela Schnell, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor's office in the Austrian capital, said there was "not enough proof" to bring charges against Kadyrov.

"We must be careful as well because this is the president of Chechnya, and we cannot put him in jail so easily," she told the New York Times.

Israilov claimed that he had been tortured by Kadryov and had served as a chief witness in court proceedings against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights.

His accounts to the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights had also formed the basis of a criminal complaint against Kadyrov, on charges of torture and attempted duress filed by Austrian lawyers in June 2008.

Kadyrov has denied responsibility for Israilov's killing.

A trial date has yet to be set.

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