Russian convicted for Vienna murder of Chechen blogger Mamikhan Umarov

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A Russian man has been convicted of murder in an Austrian court for the execution-style shooting of a Chechen blogger in a Vienna suburb last year.

The defendant, identified only as a 48-year-old ethnic Chechen, was sentenced to life in prison by the regional court in Korneuburg on Friday.

On July 4 last year ex-policeman Mamikhan Umarov was shot dead outside an industrial estate in Gerasdorf, north of Vienna.

Members of the Chechen exile community in Austria had said they believed the murder was politically motivated.

Umarov, who left Chechnya in 2005, had posted numerous YouTube videos criticising the authoritarian head of the semi-autonomous Chechen Republic in Russia, Ramzan Kadyrov.

But spokesman Wolfgang Schuster-Kramer said on Friday the court was presented with “no concrete evidence” proving the killing had had a political motive.

He added that the defence said it would appeal the motive. During the case, a defence lawyer blamed the shooting on Umarov’s bodyguard.

Prosecutors said the 43-year-old was shot six times, including once in the head from a short distance, shortly after the men met at the industrial estate. Blood and gunshot particles were later found on the defendant’s clothes.

There have been several fatal attacks on Chechens overseas in recent years. A Russian man is on trial in Germany for the daylight killing of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia, in Berlin in 2019.

The 40-year-old Khangoshvili was a former rebel insurgent commander who had fought Russian troops in Chechnya before fleeing to Germany in 2016.

In February last year, Imran Aliyev, who also ran a YouTube channel criticizing Kadyrov, was found stabbed to death in a hotel in Lille, France.

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That same month another popular Chechen dissident blogger, Tumru Abdurakhmanov, survived an attempt on his life in his apartment in the Swedish town of Gävle.

About 130,000 Chechen refugees and asylum seekers are thought to reside in European countries, many of whom violence and human rights abuses under Kadyrov’s regime in Chechnya.

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