German court convicts a Russian man of plotting to kill an exiled Chechen dissident

BERLIN (AP) — A German court on Thursday convicted a Russian man of plotting the murder of an exiled Chechen dissident on orders from a cousin of the Russian republic's Moscow-backed strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Munich state court sentenced the defendant, whom it identified only as Valid D. in line with German privacy rules, to 10 years in prison and also ordered the confiscation of his car. He was convicted of agreeing to commit murder, preparing a serious act of violence and violations of weapons laws.

Judges found that a cousin of Kadyrov tasked him with killing an opponent who lives in Germany, Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov. They said the aim was to silence Abdurakhmanov's elder brother, a prominent opponent of the Chechen government who lives in Sweden and had already been targeted there.

The court found that the killing was ordered between March and June 2020, German news agency dpa reported. A court statement said that the defendant tasked another Chechen man, who testified as a witness, with carrying it out.

The witness initially pretended to go ahead with the plan and entered Germany as an asylum-seeker, according to the court. He then disclosed the plan to a fellow resident at his refugee shelter, and informed Abdurakhmanov and his brother of the plan in a December 2020 phone call. The suspect was arrested in January 2021 after the intended target informed police.

The court said it considered and rejected the possibility that the defendant was himself the victim of a plot or that he was only pretending to comply with orders. It noted that the weapon had been procured.

The defense had pleaded for acquittal on most counts, arguing that the defendant only breached weapons laws.

Presiding Judge Christoph Wiesner described the planned murder as “a state killing order of the Chechen regime.” He said it was planned “with the knowledge, approval and interest” of Kadyrov.

Abdurakhmanov joined the trial as a co-plaintiff, as German law allows. He said after the verdict: “I will continue my political activity.”

The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to keep the North Caucasus region stable after two devastating separatist wars. International rights groups have accused his security forces of extrajudicial killings, torture and abductions of dissenters.

In 2021, a Berlin court sentenced a Russian man to life in prison for killing a Chechen man in the German capital in 2019 at the behest of the Russian government.