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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Rejects Chechen Lawyer's Suit

A Moscow court refused on Friday to grant a prominent Chechen lawyer more than $200,000 in compensation for his house, which he claims was destroyed in bombing during the ongoing military operation in Chechnya.

Abdulla Khamzayev's civil suit against the federal government could have set a precedent for thousands of Chechnya's residents, whose homes have been destroyed in the past 20 months of fighting.

Khamzayev, 64, was seeking 6.6 million rubles ($230,000) as compensation for his house and the psychological damage he suffered as a result of what he called the illegal bombing of a residential area of Urus-Martan, a town in southeastern Chechnya. He claimed the house was destroyed in an air attack on Oct. 19, 1999. Six people were killed and 15 were wounded, while 12 houses were destroyed and 28 damaged, he said.

Khamzayev hoped to prove that the bombing of Urus-Martan was conducted in violation of federal law, as well as the army's own rules and regulations.

But court documents — although they confirmed that Khamzayev's house had been destroyed — contradicted each other as to whether the bombing actually took place and, if so, who was to blame. The documents included written acknowledgments from five army generals, including Deputy Chief of Staff Valery Manilov, that no rebels had been spotted in the area of Urus-Martan on the day in question.

But all five officers denied the bombing took place. However, both the Urus-Martan prosecutor's office and the city's pro-Moscow administration said the bombing did take place.

The government representative at the trial, Defense Ministry lawyer Dmitry Mityurich, said that, even if there had been bombing, the Urus-Martan administration was "not competent enough" to say who had conducted it.

As for the prosecutors' claims, he said they were just "an initial hypothesis" that has yet to be proven by a criminal investigation, which was opened last year. The representative of the prosecutor's office, Vladimir Ten, agreed that only the investigation could establish who was behind the bombing.

"We cannot even exclude the possibility that it might have been foreign aviation," Ten said, triggering an outburst of laughter in the courtroom.

But, according to court documents, the prosecutor's investigation into the attack has been suspended "due to the impossibility of finding the perpetrator."

The judge, Yevgenia Karpushkina, did not explain her decision Friday. By law, she has three working days to do so.

Khamzayev believed the court feared setting a precedent for other Chechens, and stirring up animosity between the prosecutor's office and the military.

"If the generals are right and there really was no bombardment, then the prosecutor's office is wrong," he said. "If the prosecutor's office is right, then the highest ranks of the army are lying. Neither of the two is easy for a local court to admit."

Khamzayev said he would appeal to the Moscow City Court, but expected it would uphold the lower court's decision.

Khamzayev is also involved in the high-profile trial of Colonel Yury Budanov, accused of kidnapping and murdering an 18-year-old Chechen girl last year. Khamzayev is representing the girl's family.