Top Chechen Ordered Abduction, Austria Says
Mr. Kadyrov, who is supported by the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, has denied any role in the killing of the whistle-blower, Umar S. Israilov, who was living in exile when he was fatally shot last year.
But the Austrian government’s investigators concluded that Mr. Kadyrov ordered that Mr. Israilov be kidnapped, and that the group of Chechens who tried to snatch Mr. Israilov from a Viennese street botched the job. One of them shot Mr. Israilov after he broke free and tried to escape, the investigators found.
Their conclusions, pointed and direct but based largely on circumstantial evidence, shift the focus now to Austria’s federal prosecutors’ office, which has been preparing indictments.
Three Chechen exiles are in custody in the case: Otto Kaltenbrunner, who is accused of being the local organizer of the crime; Muslim Dadayev, who is accused of monitoring Mr. Israilov’s movements before the crime and driving the getaway car; and Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, who is accused, with a fourth man, of confronting Mr. Israilov as he stepped from a grocery store and then chasing him as he fled.
The fourth suspect, Lecha Bogatirov, left Austria and returned to Russia after the killing, investigators found; he is suspected of shooting Mr. Israilov three times with a pistol.
Mr. Israilov, who was 27, was a former bodyguard and midlevel official in the paramilitary forces under Mr. Kadyrov’s command.
In 2006, after leaving Russia for asylum in Europe, he filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights in which he accused Mr. Kadyrov of participating in abductions, torture and murder as part of a Kremlin-backed counterinsurgency effort against separatists in Chechnya, a Russian republic.
Before he was killed Mr. Israilov said he had been threatened by an emissary from Mr. Kadyrov, and he asked for police protection, which was denied. In interviews with The New York Times while in hiding, he said that Mr. Kadyrov had “promised a bounty for me.”
Among the evidence the Austrian investigators found, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor’s office, was a digital picture in Mr. Kaltenbrunner’s cellphone that showed him sitting on a couch with Mr. Kadyrov. The investigators also determined that Mr. Kaltenbrunner had been in Chechnya shortly before the killing, which is when, Mr. Israilov’s supporters say, Mr. Kaltenbrunner received the final instructions from Mr. Kadyrov to kidnap or kill the whistle-blower.
The authorities also determined that a close aide to Mr. Kadyrov met with two of the suspects in the killing — Mr. Kaltenbrunner and Mr. Bogatirov — before Mr. Israilov was shot and that Mr. Kaltenbrunner placed a call to the aide’s cellphone number immediately after the shooting, while the group fled.
The aide, Shaa Turlayev, is a former rebel who has been accused in Russia of organizing political killings for the Chechen president. A copy of Mr. Turlayev’s Russian passport and an electronic airline ticket used by Mr. Turlayev were found in the getaway car.