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Chechen Man Faces Trial For Feeding Alleged Militant

The gate of a prison in northern Chechnya (file photo)
The gate of a prison in northern Chechnya (file photo)

GROZNY, Russia -- A man accused of buying food for a militant in Russia's Chechnya region faces trial on charges of acting as an accomplice to armed outlaws.

The regional prosecutor's office said on March 19 that investigators had wrapped up their case against Vizir Zaurbekov, a resident of the Shatoi district in southern Chechnya, and sent it to court for consideration.

Zaurbekov was arrested in January. His prosecution comes amid what rights groups say is increasing pressure from Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's government on relatives and others accused of giving aid or shelter to Islamist insurgents and other militants in the North Caucasus region.

The case against another Chechen man accused of feeding a militant was reportedly sent to court in January, and a third man in the region was sentenced to one year in prison in September for providing a militant with food.

In December, after 14 policemen were killed in some of the deadliest fighting in Chechnya in years, Kadyrov said relatives of militants who kill people would be banished from the southern Russian region and their homes razed.

Several houses were subsequently torched, raising concerns among rights activists in Russia and abroad.

The European Union then called for a "measured response" from Kadyrov's government to maintain order in Chechnya.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement in December that Kadyrov's order to expel the relatives of militants from Chechnya and demolish their homes "will only exacerbate tensions."

In his annual extended Q&A session with Russian and international journalists on December 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin said regarding the situation in Chechnya that everything there, as elsewhere in the Russian Federation, must be implemented in accordance with Russian law.

Putin added though that as far as he personally knows Kadyrov, the Chechen leader "never leaves his comrades-in-arms in trouble," focusing on the 14 Chechen police officers killed in the terrorist attack.

In January, lawmakers from Chechnya's regional parliament proposed national legislation for Russia that would formally impose criminal accountability upon relatives of militants who commit acts of terrorism.

The bill proposed an extension of criminal accountability to parents and close relatives of convicted terrorists if a court finds they provided "assistance" to militants in "any form."

The status of that bill, how far it has progressed in the process toward becoming a law, is unclear.

With reporting by