Russian Activist Found Not Guilty Of Libeling Chechen Leader

MOSCOW — Memorial Human Rights Center leader Oleg Orlov has been found not guilty of insulting Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

The Moscow court ruled on June 14 that statements Orlov made following the abduction and murder in July 2009 of his Grozny-based colleague, Natalya Estemirova, did not constitute a crime.

Orlov said in interviews to media outlets and on his organization’s website that Kadyrov was responsible for everything that happens in Chechnya, including the murder of Estemirova.

Kadyrov filed a lawsuit against Orlov saying that he had insulted the Chechen leader.

Kadyrov’s first libel lawsuit against Orlov was filed with Moscow’s Tver district court as a civil case in 2009.

In October 2009, that court found Orlov partially guilty of insulting Kadyrov’s “personal dignity and honor” and fined him 20,000 rubles ($705).

Memorial was required to pay Kadyrov the same amount in damages.

On July 6, 2010, Kadyrov filed a criminal lawsuit against Orlov on the same grounds.

Kadyrov’s lawyer, Andrei Krasnenkov, asked the court to sentence Orlov to three years in jail. The prosecutor also asked for a 150,000 ruble ($5,306) fine.

Orlov and his lawyer Genri Reznik insisted Orlov should be acquitted.

In his final testimony in court today, Orlov said he does not regret saying what he said regarding the murder of Estemirova.

“By trying to prove my innocence in this courtroom, I am in fact defending the right of Russian citizens to express their thoughts and opinions freely,” he said.

Read more in Russian here

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