DUBAI // Lawyers for the defendants accused of killing the Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev said in closing arguments yesterday their clients were "threatened with torture" to get confessions.
Abdullah Madani, the advocate representing the 37-year-old Iranian defendant MH, told the court his client was forced to sign a confession by state security officials who threatened to harm him.
"He was told, your honour, to confess at the prosecutor's office, otherwise he would be tortured when he returned to detention," Mr Madani told the Dubai Court of Appeals.
MH, a horse groomer for the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, and MJ, 32, a Tajik national, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison by the lower court in April for aiding and abetting the premeditated murder of Mr Yamadayev, a rival to Mr Kadyrov.
They were also convicted of possessing an unlicensed weapon, a gold-plated 9mm Stechkin APS, thought to be the weapon that killed Mr Yamadayev.
Mr Yamadayev was shot to death in the basement car park of his Jumeirah Beach Residence building on March 28, 2009, in an assassination that is thought to have been politically motivated.
Nine men, including MH, MJ, a former deputy prime minister of Chechnya and a current Russian member of parliament, are believed by police to have been involved.
"In the confession, the defendant is named as a driver and car owner. We are presenting records from the Sharjah Traffic Department that show that MH does not drive or own a car, and failed his exam when he took it," Mr Madani told the court. "This confession is from the imagination of an overzealous policeman."
Mr Madani also told the court that the prosecutors' appeal for the death penalty against his clients had been officially dropped.
"This is the official agreement and waiver that has been reached with Mr Yamadayev's brother during Ramadan to drop their al Qasas right [to the death penalty] your honour," he said. "The public prosecution's case now has to be dropped as per the UAE law."
On appeal, the public prosecution requested the court to implement al Qasas, which in UAE law mandates capital punishment. Al Qasas, however, also gives the victim's family the right to reduce the implementation of whatever sentence is issued by the court, if they pardon the defendants.
The declaration was signed by the Yamadayev family's executor, Isa Yamadayev, and said the family had forfeited their right for retributive punishment in any criminal or civil claims related to the case and were not pursuing any financial compensation, such as blood money, against any of the suspects, including the ones tracked by Interpol.
Dubai police issued seven Interpol red notices, or arrest warrants, for the suspected killers. One of the men wanted by Dubai is a Russian Duma member and close associate of Mr Kadyrov, Adam Delimkhanov.
Mr Madani maintained that the case was influenced by politics. "The court should take into account in its decision only the facts presented before it. However, in the lower court's judgment, five pages were included by the judge explaining the political ties to this murder," he said.
Mr Yamadayev had been living in Dubai with his wife and six children since January 2009. Dubai Police have said that the former warlord had survived multiple attempts on his life before he moved to the emirate.
His brother, Ruslan, a former member of the Russian parliament's lower house, was killed in Moscow in September 2008. Both were prominent opponents of Mr Kadyrov.
The court will soon announce a judgment date.