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(Washington, D.C.) – A leading Russian human rights defender, Oleg Orlov, has been accused of slandering the Chechen president has been acquitted by a court in Moscow.
Orlov, head of the N.G.O. Human Rights Center, Memorial, was acquitted of slandering Ramzan Kadyrov during a hearing on Tuesday, June 14. Orlov had said he believed Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of his colleague Natalia Estemirova, who was abducted and killed in Chechnya in July 2009.
“Oleg Orlov should never have been criminally prosecuted for expressing his opinion,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Eastern and Central Europe. “The decision is a small but welcome sign of respect for the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression, even as human rights defenders in Chechnya continue to suffer threats and intimidation.”
The judge found that Orlov had only expressed his opinion, and had not knowingly made false claims about Kadyrov. It was revealed during the trial that Estemirova had told close friends that she had received numerous threats when she was working in Chechnya.
“The next step for the Russian justice system should be to fully investigate the killing of Natalia Estemirova and to bring those responsible for her murder to justice,” said Dalhuisen.
Following Estemirova's murder, Memorial suspended its work in Chechnya, and the authorities in Chechnya continue to intimidate and harass human rights activists.
Russian president Dmitryi Medvedev has recently proposed that slander be removed from the Russian criminal code. Orlov has already been convicted of slander in a civil case brought by Kadyrov.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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