Defendant In Chechen Blogger Assault Case In Sweden Says He Acted On Grozny's Orders

A Russian citizen charged in Sweden with the attempted murder of a blogger and outspoken critic of the authoritarian leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya says he acted on orders he received from Chechen officials.

As the trial started at the Attunda district court in Sweden on November 2, the defendant, Ruslan Mamayev, testified that from the very beginning he secretly planned to fail when carrying out the assault against Tumso Abdurakhmanov to keep the Chechen officials who ordered the attack from turning on him. He added that he has since asked for political asylum in Sweden.

Abdurakhmanov’s lawyer, Jens Sjolund, said at the hearing that Chechen authorities had promised a reward for the assassination of his client.

The second defendant in the case, a woman, rejected all charges against her.

Last week, the Swedish Security Service said two Russian nationals, a man and a woman, were charged with the attempted murder of Abdurakhmanov, adding that the attack in February is suspected of being linked to "a regime in another country, the Russian republic of Chechnya."

Abdurakhmanov, who fled Russia several years ago, said he survived the February 26 attack by overpowering his assailant, who was armed with a hammer.

It was one of several attacks outside of Russia in recent months on critics of Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

In late January, the body of Imran Aliyev, another Chechen blogger known for his criticism of Kadyrov, was found dead in a hotel room in the northern French city of Lille, with stab wounds.

Earlier this year, police in Austria arrested two Chechen asylum seekers as part of their investigation into the July 4 killing in the Vienna suburb of Gerasdorf of Mamikhan Umarov, another Kadyrov critic.

In August last year, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen separatist fighter who had fled from Georgia to Germany, was shot dead in Berlin. A Russian national suspected in the killing went on trial in Germany earlier last month.

Human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of widespread abuses in the region, allegations he denies. They say Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Supporters claim Kadyrov has brought relative calm to the volatile region following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

With reporting by Dagens Nyheter and Stromstads Tidning