Isayev brought a libel suit against Dzhemal last year after the latter authored two articles describing the (mostly circumstantial) evidence which led him to conclude that Isayev indeed commissioned the two killings.
The two murder victims were Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, gunned down outside his home on the outskirts of Makhachkala in August 2009, and Khadjimurad Kamalov, killed in similar circumstances in December 2011 outside the office of the independent weekly "Chernovik," of which he was the founder and chief editor.
In the two articles he published last year, Dzhemal chronicled the arrest of brothers Murad and Magomed Shuaybov and Isa Abdurakhmanov (who had worked as Isayev's driver) on suspicion of committing one or both murders. Dzhemal also gave details of disagreements between Isayev and the two journalists that resulted in lingering mutual animosity.
According to Dzhemal, Murad Shuaybov reportedly told investigators that he and Abdurakhmanov killed Akhmedilov on orders from Magomed Abigasanov, the head of Isayev's bodyguards.
Dzhemal said Shuaybov also identified his brother Magomed, Abigasanov, and Magomed Khazamov as having assisted him in killing Kamalov. But in September 2013, Shuaybov's lawyers said he was held in solitary confinement and tortured to induce him to confess to the murders of Akhmedilov and Kamalov, and to implicate Abdurakhmanov in Akhmedilov's death.
Murad Shuaybov and Abdurakhmanov went on trial in a Makhachkala district court last month on a charge of murdering Akhmedilov. Both plead not guilty. The Daghestan subsidiary of Russia's Investigative Committee had reportedly quoted Shuaybov in December as having admitted to killing Akhmedilov out of personal animosity after the latter had wrongly branded him an adherent of Wahhabism.
Shuaybov has not been charged with killing Kamalov, although Dzhemal said it was Shuaybov and Khazamov who fired the fatal shots.
Meanwhile, Isayev has accused Dzhemal of trying to drag out the proceedings in his ongoing libel suit that got underway last fall. In a statement last week, Isayev claimed that Dzhemal deliberately failed to show up in court for hearings. Isayev also affirmed that the documents Dzhemal adduced were falsified, and that the websites that originally posted Dzhemal's two articles incriminating Isayev have since removed them -- which is not the case. Furthermore, Isayev implicitly blames Dzhemal for an anonymous bomb threat on May 13 that led to the evacuation of the courtroom.
Dzhemal's lawyer Biyakay Magomedov, for his part, explains that Dzhemal's initial failure to appear in court was due to Isayev's filing suit in the wrong Moscow district court.
Magomedov further pointed out that the call to evacuate the courtroom for security reasons last week came just as he had begun his recusal of the presiding judge, Yuliya Bobrova, who had rejected his request that the formal record of Magomed Shuaybov's interrogation should be submitted to the court as corroboration of Dzhemal's hypothesis concerning Isayev's involvement in the deaths of Akhmedilov and Kamalov.
Earlier, Magomedov had argued that Dzhemal was exercising his constitutionally guaranteed right to express his "subjective opinion" about Isayev's role in the two murders.
Dzhemal responded to Isayev's statement with a summary of more official documents pertaining to the Akhmedilov murder investigation. The scanned copies reproduced in the text bear an official stamp indicating that they are bona fide copies. One of those documents is an official instruction dated October 2010 from a senior Investigative Committee staffer to the unnamed head of the Daghestan administration of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to launch a formal probe of the possible involvement of Isayev and his brother Omargadji in Akhmedilov's murder.
Not surprisingly, Dzhemal has not explained how he gained access to such sensitive documentation. That he has excellent contacts inside the FSB is clear from his detailed biography of Aliaskhab Kebekov, who succeeded Doku Umarov as leader of the Caucasus Emirate early this year. It is conceivable that some of those contacts may have a personal interest either in discrediting Isayev, or, alternatively, in bringing the killers of Kamalov and Akhmedilov to justice.
-- Liz Fuller