A court in Korneuburg, Austria, has sentenced 48-year-old Sarali Akhtaev to life in prison after finding him guilty of the murder of Chechen blogger Mamikhan Umarov.
As reported by the newspaper Die Presse, Akhtaev — who is also from Russia’s Chechnya — pleaded not guilty, claiming that the murder was committed by someone else. “The real perpetrator fled,” he said.
Mamikhan Umarov ran the YouTube channel “Anzor from Vienna,” where he criticized and even insulted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his family. Umarov was killed in the town of Gerasdorf, near Vienna, on July 4, 2020. He was 43 years old.
Die Presse wrote that according to the indictment, Akhtaev — who was supposedly known in the Chechen community as a gunrunner — allegedly killed Umarov during a meeting to exchange a car for a Glock pistol. Umarov was shot six times; the last shot was to his head. Akhtaev was detained later that same day and traces of the victim’s blood were found on his shoes.
During the hearing on August 6, Umarov’s bodyguard, who spoke as a witness in the trial, said there was a $5 million bounty on the Chechen blogger’s head. Investigators were unable to determine whether the murder was politically motivated or whether it took place due to dispute that arose during the deal, the prosecutor said in his closing remarks.
Following Mamikhan Umarov’s death, his relatives released a video in which they confessed to his murder, saying, “We stopped him because we had to do it.”
Ramzan Kadyrov claimed Umarov was a “victim of intelligence services working against Russia and me in particular.” In turn, Putin’s spokesman stated that the Kremlin didn’t see any connection between the crime and the head of Chechnya.
During a meeting with the Chechen leadership in November 2019, Ramzan Kadyrov called for reprisals against those who “spread rumors” online. “Those who violate the trust between people — who gossip and stage feuds, if we don’t stop them, killing, imprisoning, scaring them, then nothing will work,” he said. Kadyrov later claimed that he was only articulating “Chechen ethics.” While the Kremlin refused to look into Kadyrov’s statements, the Russia Interior Ministry concluded that they didn’t constitute a violation of any kind.
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