MOSCOW, July 9 A man long relied on by President
Vladimir Putin to rule one of Russia's most violent cities was
sentenced to 10 years in jail on Wednesday on charges of
plotting a "terrorist" attack to kill a political rival.
A military court convicted accused Said Amirov, the mayor of
Dagestan's capital Makhachkala from 1988 to 2013, of conspiring
to use an anti-aircraft missile to shoot down a plane carrying
the local head of the state pension fund.
His nephew Yusup Dzhaparov, former deputy mayor of a nearby
city, was sentenced as a co-conspirator to eight and half years
in jail, Russian state television Vesti-24 reported.
The two men have dismissed the charges as absurd and
fabricated. Their lawyer said he would appeal what he called a
politically motivated ruling.
"Political issues need to be decided at the political level
and not by investigators and law enforcement," the defence
lawyer said, cited by the Itar-Tass news agency.
Amirov's arrest in June 2013 was seen as Putin's attempt to
assert control over a region dogged by mafia-style crime and
Islamist insurgency ahead of his 2014 hosting of the winter
Olympics on the other side of the mountains.
Until then, he seemed untouchable, protected by the Kremlin
as the local boss of the president's United Russia party.
In the restive North Caucasus region, Putin's policy to
impose control has been to rely on strongmen like Amirov, who
run business empires and wield personal authority over police.
The court in the southern city of Rostov ordered Amirov, who
was left wheelchair-bound after one of over a dozen attempts to
assassinate him, to be held in a maximum security prison and be
stripped of his state awards, Itar-Tass reported.
Dagestan, where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan
Tsarnaev spent the first half of 2012, is the main focus of an
insurgency by fighters who want to found an Islamic state in
Russia's Caucasus mountains.
Amirov was so powerful that investigators have said they
spent two years preparing for his arrest and sent special forces
from Moscow with helicopters and armoured personnel carriers to
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Tom Heneghan)