The Moscow City Court has held another session in the lawsuit (on libel) filed by Republic of Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov against Memorial Human Rights Centre Director Oleg Orlov. Six months after the legal proceedings began, the aggrieved Kadyrov personally expounded on his position in court.
It must be noted that the participants in the process had been eagerly waiting for the questioning of Ramzan Kadyrov, which had been postponed for several court sessions in a row. Finally, a compromise was reached – the victim would answer the court’s questions via video link from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Chechnya.
The atmosphere in the courtroom was oppressive. There wasn’t enough room for everyone, while the prosecutor and judge were focused and tense. Meanwhile, the representatives of the Chechen diaspora, of which there was an abundance in the courtroom, behaved in a carefree manner, chuckling at almost every remark their leader made. Even the victim himself was at ease, smiling and even mustering the strength to laugh.
“Following Oleg Orlov’s statement in summer 2009 that I was allegedly guilty in the murder of Memorial employee Natalya Estemirova, a tragedy occurred at my home,” Kadyrov said as he explained the circumstances of the case to the court. “I came home, and my mother, wife and children were crying. According to our customs, this is a serious insult. It’s a mark on the entire Kadyrov clan. We decided to handle it under the law”.
Kadyrov said he had only seen Natalya Estemirova “two times” in his life and that she was “a very good, normal woman and mother”. He said he “did not follow” her human rights activities.
During the session, however, it became apparent that Kadyrov had some idea of Estemirova’s professional activities and that he even tried to cooperate with the human rights worker.
“I appointed Estemirova head of the city human rights protection council under the Mayor of Grozny and she could’ve done anything she wanted to … I didn’t see anything sacred or useful for our republic in her work. I protect human rights. I gave an oath when taking office as president of the republic. But she refused to cooperate with us.”
“I never threatened her. I said that she was a beautiful girl and that she was even better off without her scarf. In Grozny, you can find tens of thousands of girls without scarves and in mini-skirts … There hasn’t been any kidnapping or torture here for a long time,” Kadyrov said in his description of the current situation in Chechnya.
Oleg Orlov and his lawyer Henri Reznik were mainly interested in how Kadyrov could explain his public statements made in different years.
“Sure, I have blood up to my elbows, and I’m not ashamed of this. I have killed and will kill enemies of the republic”. Witnesses in the case claim this is the phrase the Chechen president said personally to Natalya Estemirova during one of their meetings.
In an interview with the Ekho Mosvky radio station, he said, “I took part in the killing of those individuals who were involved in the murder of my father”.
Kadyrov told GQ magazine, “I’ve already killed those I had to, and I’ll kill the ones behind them while I’m still alive and I haven’t been killed or put away”.
In response to these questions, Ramzan Kadyrov replied that everything he does as head of Chechnya is done strictly within the confines of the law, and the laws of the Russian Federation allow him to do this. “I have killed and will kill bandits and terrorists in accordance with the laws,” he says.
At the end of the interview, Reznik asked Kadyrov why he had withdrawn all of his lawsuits against human rights defenders at his mother’s request except for the one against Orlov. “I called him and wanted to talk, but he stood his ground and insulted me even more. That’s when I decided to let the law decide … I want Oleg Orlov to be punished”.
Orlov has no plans to recant. “Personally, I’m satisfied that this process took place. It became a platform for evidence of Ramzan Kadyrov’s political guilt in the murder of Natasha Estemirova as well as the entire frightening and difficult situation in the Republic of Chechnya and the pressure on nongovernmental organisations. Now all of this has been documented as official record in the case materials.”
Memorial human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was kidnapped in front of her home in Grozny on 15 July 2009, taken to Ingushetia and murdered. Following this, Oleg Orlov accused Ramzan Kadyrov of political culpability in this crime. Legal proceedings in the criminal libel case have dragged on for more than six months under the watch of Judge Karina Morozova. Seven court sessions have been held, while the prosecution and defence have questioned fourteen witnesses.
The legal proceedings will continue on 10 May.