Chechen Court Sends OMON Officer to Jail
Published: April 1, 2005 (Issue # 1057)
GROZNY - A Grozny court on Tuesday sentenced a federal Interior Ministry serviceman to 11 years in jail for severely beating a Chechen civilian - the first time such a trial has been held in Chechnya.
Sergei Lapin, an officer of the elite OMON special forces who was serving in Chechnya, was convicted of causing severe bodily harm to Zelimkhan Murdalov and of abusing his authority.
Murdalov, 22, left his home in Grozny on Jan. 2, 2001, saying he would be back in an hour, according to the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International.
That was the last Murdalov's family ever saw of him, and his whereabouts remain unknown. His father discovered that a young man matching his description had been detained in central Grozny. Police told him that his son was detained on charges of possessing cannabis and was later released.
However, detainees who had been held in the same cell reportedly said that when they saw Murdalov a day after his arrest he was unconscious after being severely beaten and his body was mutilated. A criminal case was opened in January 2001 into Murdalov's "disappearance," but his father still does not know the fate of his son.
Relatives of the victim wept in court as the judge spent more than half an hour describing the details of his beating and torture, including electric shocks and the use of dogs, according to footage broadcast on NTV television.
Lapin protested his innocence and denounced the court verdict as unfair. His lawyers will appeal, NTV said.
"I didn't expect anything else," he said from inside a steel cage for defendants in the courtroom.
"It's unlawful, unjustified and unproven," Lapin said.
But a lawyer for the victim's family said they welcomed the verdict even though it would not bring back Murdalov, believed to be dead.
"They are satisfied. A crime has been acknowledged as a crime and a real punishment meted out," Stanislav Margelov said.
The verdict was the first to be handed down by a Chechen court against a federal serviceman accused of committing crimes against Chechens. A military officer, former Colonel Yury Budanov, was convicted by a Rostov-on-Don court in July 2003 of the kidnapping and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman.