A Dubai court convicted two men Monday for their role in the assassination of a former Chechen warlord last year and sentenced each to 25 years in prison.

The two men, an Iranian and a Tajik, were each handed life sentences after being found guilty of aiding and abetting the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev. A life term is limited to 25 years under local law. The men will be deported after serving their sentences.

State news agency WAM identified the Iranian defendant as Mahdi Tagi Dhurnia and the Tajik national as Mahsoudjan Asmanov.

Four other suspects are believed to have fled the United Arab Emirates.

The Chechen’s killing in a beachfront parking lot in March 2009 stunned Dubai authorities as the first major political assassination in the Gulf city-state. It came just months after another contract killing, of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim, in a luxury high-rise apartment in the emirate.

Both those high-profile killings have since been eclipsed by the slaying of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by a hit squad in January. That case, involving multiple suspects carrying fraudulent passports widely suspected of ties to Israel’s Mossad secret service, has strengthened Dubai’s image as a city of international intrigue.

Nonetheless, local officials have been eager to portray the emirate - long a favourite haven for exiled leaders and others unwelcome at home - as a safe and secure city, where crime is low compared to much of the West.

Yamadayev was a former Chechen warlord who switched sides in the conflicts between Chechen rebels and the Russian government. He later fell out of favour with Chechnya’s Kremlin-allied president Ramzan Kadyrov and left the country, making his way to Dubai, where he lived under a different name.

He was gunned down March 28 last year in an audacious daytime slaying. Dubai police say four other suspects were also involved, including Adam Delimkhanov, a Russian parliament deputy and close ally of Kadyrov. Mr. Delimkhanov has denied the allegations.

According to court documents, the Iranian defendant was accused of passing a gun to the alleged shooter, while the Tajik defendant provided information to the assassins and later helped two of them flee the country.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty to the murder-related charges at their arraignment in August.

Defence lawyers for the two men claimed in court that police failed to produce strong enough evidence against their clients and mishandled the investigation by not thoroughly questioning Yamadayev’s bodyguards and others in his entourage.

Keywords: Murder sentence

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