Azerbaijan protests over Russia's handling of murder suspect

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2013 12:55 PM
Azerbaijan protests over Russia's handling of murder suspect

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan said on Thursday it has protested to Russia about police treatment of an Azeri migrant suspected of killing an ethnic Russian man in Moscow last week.

The fatal stabbing of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, triggered the worst race riots in Moscow in three years as it inflamed tension between disenchanted Russian youths and migrant workers, mostly from predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet states.

Russian media described the Azeri national, Orhan Zeylanov, as a "killer" and showed video footage of police kicking him during his detention. The footage also showed him being frog-marched before Russia's Interior Minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and thrown bleeding into a police van.

"The rough detention and treatment and reference to him as a 'criminal' without a court decision or a finding of his guilt violate the provision of the presumption of innocence," Azeri Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said in a statement.

A spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry said at a weekly briefing that Moscow had received a note of protest from the Azeri government.

In a video released by police, Zeynalov admitted to stabbing Shcherbakov last Thursday in Moscow's southern Biryulyovo district as the Russian was walking home with his girlfriend. He said he was acting in self-defense but it was unclear why he would have needed to defend himself.

Early this week, before Zeynalov was detained on Tuesday, crowds of Russians roamed Biryulyovo's streets hunting for non-Slavic men who matched a police description of his alleged killer. They smashed shop windows and hundreds were later detained by police.

The Azeri government, in its statement, said that its embassy in Moscow was ready to provide legal help for Zeynalov.

Ties between Baku and its former Soviet master Moscow have become strained in recent years as Azerbaijan has forged ties with the West and NATO countries which use Azeri territory, between Iran and Russian, to transit personnel to Afghanistan.

A migrant worker was found stabbed to death on Wednesday in a Moscow neighborhood rocked by this week's race riots, in what a community leader suggested was a revenge attack for the killing of Shcherbakov.

(Reporting By Lada Evgrashina and Alexei Anishchuk in Moscow, Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Susan Fenton)