Rights activist, husband killed in Chechnya

GROZNY, Vitor Vilaskas - A Russian NGO chief and her husband were found shot dead in Chechnya Tuesday, their bodies stuffed into a car boot, in the latest killing to shake activists in the conflict-torn Caucasus.
The murder of the head of Let's Save the Generation, Zarema Sadulayeva, and her husband came less than a month after Natalya Estemirova, one of the best known activists in Chechnya, was killed in similar circumstances.

Rights activist, husband killed in Chechnya
"The rights activists were found in the boot of a car with gunshot wounds in the settlement of Chernorechye in Grozny," the Chechen capital, a source in the Chechen interior ministry told AFP.
Russian prosecutors said a criminal inquiry had been opened into the double murder.
Unidentified armed and masked men, two in civilian dress and three wearing military fatigues, had abducted Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Djibralov after storming the offices of her young people's NGO in Grozny the day earlier.
Funeral services were held later Tuesday for Sadulayeva in her home village of Shalazhi, in Chechnya's mountainous Urus-Martan region, and her husband in Grozny, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
In a separate killing, a journalist in the nearby Caucasus region of Dagestan was found dead on the outskirts of the local capital Makhachkala after being shot in the stomach, Russian news agencies reported.
Malik Akhmedilov worked for the weekly newspaper Khakikat, meaning "truth" in the local Avar language.
The murders come amid growing international pressure on Russia to end the apparent culture of impunity in which activists are being killed after the still unsolved killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned the "systematic" persecutions of Russian rights defenders in Chechnya, calling on Russian authorities to do everything "to identify, arrest and judge" the killers.
Let's Save the Generation works with young people in Chechnya who have been marginalised, helping them get back on their feet to prevent them joining rebel groups in the unstable region.
Sadulayeva's husband had been jailed for four years for links to illegal armed groups, Alexander Cherkasov, a board member of the Memorial rights group, told AFP on Monday. They had married two months after he left prison, he added.
Russian news agencies quoted one Kremlin source as condemning the murders as a "cruel and cowardly crime".
Tatyana Lokshina, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told RIA Novosoti: "One thing is clear -- to work as a rights activist in Chechnya at the moment is simply impossible."
These latest killings come less than a month after the body of Natalya Estemirova, who worked for Russia's oldest rights group, Memorial, was found shortly after she was abducted outside her home in Grozny on July 15.
Memorial has since suspended its Grozny operations and its chairman Oleg Orlov has accused Chechnya's pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov of being responsible for the murder.
Kadyrov vehemently denied that allegation, and was swift to condemn the latest "cynical and inhuman" murders.
"I see it as a challenge to society, an attempt to strike fear into every inhabitant of Chechnya," he said according to Interfax.
He also speculated the murders could have been "blood revenge" for her husband's past as a rebel.
"In accordance with the Russian president's demand we must quickly find the culprits, detain them and punish them by law," Kadyrov pledged, admitting that "the situation (in Chechnya) has reached its ultimate limit."
But Amnesty International warned there was no respect for the rule of law in the region.
"The latest murder of a human rights activist in Chechnya demonstrates the complete disregard of the rule of law that prevails in Chechnya today," the rights group said in a statement.
"The light of public scrutiny is gradually being turned off in Chechnya ... This can only lead to the further unleashing of lawlessness which has already been destabilising the North Caucasus for many years."
Kadyrov is praised by the Kremlin for restoring some stability to the Caucasus region but is detested by human rights activists who accuse him of letting his personal militia carry out kidnappings and torture.
Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus mountains, was the site of two full-scale wars between separatist forces and Russia's central government after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Tuesday, August 11th 2009
Vitor Vilaskas

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