Rights Group Demands Probe of Vienna Slaying

A human rights group urged Russian and Austrian authorities to investigate the slaying of a Chechen man who they say claimed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov personally tortured him.

Umar Israilov, a former Chechen rebel, fled to Austria and was gunned down in Vienna on Tuesday.

Tatyana Lokshina of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch said Friday that an "urgent and detailed" investigation is needed to bring Israilov's killers to justice. She also called on authorities to ensure safety of Israilov's pregnant wife and three children who remain in Austria.

"Israilov is not the only critic of the Chechen leadership to die or disappear," Lokshina said.

The Vienna public prosecutor's office said it had no proof that Israilov was killed by a hit man or that the killing was political. It said Austrian police detained a 40-year-old man of Chechen origin in whose car the killers escaped. The man denied any involvement.

A lawyer in Vienna released a statement purportedly from Israilov's father, saying his son joined the Chechen insurgency in 2001 when fighting between federal forces and militants was still frequent. He was detained in 2003 and tortured by Kadyrov and others, the statement said.

At the time, Kadyrov's father, Akhmad, was Chechnya's president and the younger Kadyrov headed security forces widely alleged to have abducted and tortured suspected militants and their relatives. The elder Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004.

Umar Israilov, after several months of torture, then offered to work as a bodyguard for Ramzan Kadyrov in return for amnesty, said Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya of the Memorial rights group. She said she interviewed Israilov in Austria.

"It was an offer he could not refuse at the time," she said by telephone from Vienna. "He was one of the very few to openly say that he served under Kadyrov."

Chechen authorities, however, denied that Israilov was ever employed as Kadyrov's bodyguard.

Israilov fled to Austria in 2003, and Chechen authorities detained and tortured his father for 10 months, Sokiryanskaya said. The statement from his father said both he and Umar fled Chechnya in 2004.

Oleg Orlov of the Memorial group said another man who claimed he was tortured by Chechen authorities, Mokhamadsalakh Masayev, was abducted in Chechnya last August. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Masayev claimed that in 2006 he was held in a secret prison in Kadyrov's home village in Chechnya and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, Orlov said.