Killing of exiled dissidents in Europe not unheard of, journalist claims

President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and his former bodyguard Umar lsrailov; photos: inforotor.ru and news.rin.ru
The attempted murder of Obid-kori Nazarov in Sweden is not the first case of an exile from a dictatorial regime being attacked after having fled to Europe, claims one Russian journalist, citing the case of the murdered Chechen Umar Israilov.

Three years ago, Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard to the president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, was killed in the centre of Vienna. Israilov had been granted political asylum in Austria and had begun to denounce his former boss.

After Austrian police were told that he was being threatened, they guarded Israilov’s house for a number of weeks.

Israilov’s killers, as it turned out, knew that the police would only protect him for a short time and kept watch on the police. Once they were sure that the protection was no longer in place, they tried to persuade Israilov to leave Vienna for Bratislava, promising him money if he met with them outside Austria. When Israilov refused, the killers changed tack, turning to threats and blackmail.

I assume that the killers’ initial plan was merely to silence Israilov. They decided to kill him when it was clear that this was the only way to permanently silence this witness to and accomplice in the crimes committed by Kadyrov’s regime.

People unfamiliar with this case may be curious as to why the hitmen tried to persuade Israilov to go from Vienna to Bratislava. Why did Israilov not leave Austria when he knew he was in danger? Perhaps the overriding question is why the Austrian authorities, knowing that Israilov had received threats, did nothing to prevent his murder.

Had Israilov been murdered in Bratislava, the incident could easily have been papered over as another crime committed by criminal gangs from the northern Caucasus coming into Eastern Europe to carry out a contract killing as they had done several times in the past.

Had they been able to dispose of Israilov’s body, or had it not been found, then as far as the Austrian authorities were concerned he would be just another refugee who had decided to return to his home without authority, quite a common explanation in such cases.

Israilov was not allowed to seek refuge in any other country except the one that had already granted him asylum. Even if he had attempted to ask for help from another European country, this would have resulted in him being deported straight back to Austria.

According to the Dublin Convention, a person who has obtained the status of political refugee in one European country does not have the right to seek or be granted asylum in another EU country.

So he would have been deported after a few months. For a member of immigration services neither the threats against Israilov nor his political activities would have had great significance.

The Austrian authorities, questioned by journalists as to why they did not take steps to prevent the crime, despite being told of the situation Israilov was in, claim that the threats were not specific enough to act on.

Israilov could not of course provide the names addresses of his killers; he knew only that it was Ramzan Kadyrov who had orchestrated the threats. Israilov’s only evidence were a threatning letter sent by email and a list of calls to his mobile phone.

The authorities were convinced that this little known dictator from a small republic in the south of Russian could not possible carry out his threats.

Who were the killers?

The people who killed Israilov were refugees like him, not specially trained professionals. They took the money (unsubstantiated reports claim they pocked around half a million Euros) and bought weapons.

And for a year they followed Israilov, established exactly where his daily routine took him. On 13th January, they caught up with him near the shop where he was buying yoghurts for his children, and shot him 18 times, only three hitting their target.

Only three of the eight people suspected of the killing have been detained and charged. All attempts by the Austrian courts to obtain assistance from Russian authorities have so far failed.

The person suspected of organising and taking part in the murder are in Kadyrov’s pay and apparently out of the reach of the European justice system.

Israilov and Nazarov – what do they have in common?

Obid-kori Nazarov’s case is very similar to that of Israilov. Nazarov, it appears, understood that he could not escape the country, so he chose to live outside the capital, in a quite province, in an attempt to protect himself and his family.

The politically active refugee in Europe is an easy target for dictatorial regimes. People such as Nazarov and Israilov find it hard to remain unnoticed in their adopted countries.

The majority of their compatriots know them by sight and know the members of their family. Therefore anyone choosing their quiet spot deep inside a country cannot remain safe for very long, and literally within a week, information will spread around the diaspora.

Life under round-the-clock guard would be comparable to life in prison, but leaving the country is practically impossible. The only remaining option is ignominious capitulation to the regime or a life lived under threat. This is a risk that they take because of their social position.

The hope is that the EU will now, after these recent crimes, review their attitude towards politically active refugees –there are perhaps only a few dozen such activists in the whole of Europe – and give some thought to providing security for these people and their families.

Written by a journalist from Russia who wishes to remain anonymous