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On Anniversary Of Activist's Death, Russia Defends Criminal Probe


Russian activists hold portraits of slain human rights worker Natalya Estemirova.

Russian activists hold portraits of slain human rights worker Natalya Estemirova.

Two years after the murder of activist Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya, rights activists are casting doubts on Russian investigators' claims that Islamic militants were responsible for her killing.

Their criticism comes a day after the Memorial human rights group published an independent report accusing Russia's security services of ignoring critical evidence in the case in order to cover up the true killers.

They say DNA evidence found on Estemirova's clothes and fingernails indicate the militants were not the killers.

Russia's Investigative Committee today declined to reveal "specific evidence" in the case, but said the involvement of the Islamist suspects was "indisputable."

One prominent rights activist, Svetlana Gannushkina, said on July 15 that she was "certain" the government's claims were incorrect.

Estemirova, who worked for the Memorial human rights group in Chechnya, had exposed allegations of involvement by Chechen officials and police forces in extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

On June 15, 2009, the 50-year-old activist was kidnapped outside her home in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Her bullet-riddled body was later discovered dumped near a road in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.

Memorial has suggested that local security forces or even Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov could be responsible for her murder.

compiled from agency reports
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