Chechen Judge Removes Himself From Trial Citing Pressure

MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti) – A Chechen judge has removed himself from a murder trial, saying he was under pressure to ensure a guilty verdict, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta daily reported Monday.

Judge Vakhid Abubakarov has accused local law enforcement agencies of applying the pressure, a claim that the Chechen Interior Ministry has strongly denied.

The judge was hearing the case of 28-year-old Suleiman Edigov, accused of killing a police officer and committing arms trafficking. Edigov confessed to all the charges during an investigation, but he withdrew his testimony in court, saying he was tortured.

The judge has said that evidence was presented in court to substantiate the claim of torture.

However, the judge removed himself from the case, claiming that he received a phone call from a person who identified himself as the republic’s interior minister, Ruslan Alkhanov.

The caller said he had “reliable information to prove that the defendant Edigov is guilty, and warned me against pronouncing him innocent,” the judge said in a statement.

“Following interference of such a high-ranking official, the sentencing … would appear either as giving in to pressure if guilty verdict is handed down, or as an act of protest in case of a not-guilty verdict,” Novaya Gazeta quoted Abubakarov as saying.

A spokesman for the Chechen Interior Ministry, Magomed-Amin Deniyev, strongly denied any interference with the legal proceedings.

“I reject all accusations against the minister and tell you officially that I do not confirm these reports,” he said.

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