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Dubai court jails two over Chechen commander's murder

MYT 7:15:56 PM

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Dubai court jailed two men for life on Monday for assisting in the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev, a prominent foe of the Kremlin-backed Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Yamadayev, one of Kadyrov's top commanders until he fled Chechnya in 2008, was shot dead last year in the underground car park of a luxury apartment block in Dubai with a gold-coloured Russian handgun.

Dubai police have accused a close adviser to Kadyrov, former deputy prime minister Adam Delimkhanov, of masterminding the assassination. Delimkhanov has denied involvement.

Russian analysts said Yamadayev's death, one of a string of recent high-profile killings in Dubai, removed one of the last remaining powerful opponents of Kadyrov's increasingly strong control over mainly Muslim Chechnya.

Makhsood Jan Asmatov of Tajikistan and Iranian Mehdi Taqi Dahuria were both convicted of aiding and abetting the murder.

Dahuria had been accused of monitoring Yamadayev from his arrival at Dubai airport to his house, and providing his address and the murder weapon to the assassins. Prosecutors said Asmatov also monitored Yamadayev. Dahuria's lawyer said he would appeal.

Russia fought two wars during the 1990s against Chechen separatists and eventually tamed the province by allowing rebels from the Kadyrov clan who switched sides to take over the local government.

CHALLENGED KADYROV

Kadyrov has pleased the Kremlin by calming Chechnya, but rights activists have expressed alarm at extrajudicial killings and forced Islamisation. Kadyrov's spokesman has dismissed any suggestion that Yamadayev's killing was linked to Kadyrov.

Yamadayev fought against Russia in the first Chechen war of 1994-96 when Moscow suffered a humiliating defeat.

After changing sides with Kadyrov, he became the commander of the Vostok battalion, battle-hardened former rebels who played a key role in subduing large-scale armed resistance to Russian rule. In 2005 he was named a "Hero of Russia".

Yamadayev challenged Kadyrov for control of the local security forces until 2008, when he was dismissed from his command post and forced to flee. He was the fifth Chechen living abroad to be killed in the space of six months.

Four other suspects in the case are wanted by Dubai police, including Delimkhanov, who since 2007 has been a member of parliament in Moscow for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Delimkhanov last year, although Russia's constitution bans the extradition of Russian nationals for crimes committed abroad.

In 2008, Yamadayev's brother Ruslan, also a former commander in Chechnya, was gunned down in a busy central Moscow street. Kadyrov at the time denied involvement and said the killers wanted to discredit him and destabilise Chechnya.

(Writing by Tamara Walid and Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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