MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Moscow court Monday convicted three men for the 2008 murder of Ruslan Yamadayev, a military commander and rival of Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader, jailing them for between 14 and 20 years.
Ruslan Yamadayev, one of the most powerful opponents of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was shot dead in his car in the center of Moscow in 2008. Ruslan's brother, Sulim, was shot dead in Dubai six months later.
The judge sentenced gunman Aslanbek Dadayev to 20 years in prison for the Moscow killing, while accomplices Elimpasha Khatsuyev and Timur Isayev were jailed for 15 and 14 years in prison respectively.
"(The accused) developed a plan to physically neutralize Yamadayev," said judge Dmitry Monekin. "They fulfilled a contract to murder him."
Investigators have not said who they believe ordered the killing.
Yamadayev fought against Russia in the first Chechen war in 1994-1996 before switching to the Russian side during the second Chechen campaign three years later.
He was given the title of "Hero of Russia," the top national honor, and was elected to parliament.
But Ruslan and his brother Sulim fell out with Kadyrov in an apparent power struggle and were forced to flee.
Months after Ruslan's 2008 killing, Sulim was murdered in Dubai in March 2009. Two men have been convicted with aiding and abetting that killing and Dubai police have accused a close adviser to Kadyrov of masterminding the assassination, a charge he denies.
Ruslan's brother Isa made a surprise peace deal with Kadyrov in August after long accusing him of having his two brothers killed. Speaking to reporters after the verdict Monday, Isa described the sentence "too mild."
Moscow relies heavily on Kadyrov to maintain order in the violence-plagued region in Russia's North Caucasus, but critics say Kadyrov has sought to impose aspects of sharia law on the region in violation of Russia's constitution.
Rights groups accuse forces controlled by Kadyrov of torture and abductions, charges he has always denied. He has amassed a large militia, and analysts say he could eventually pose a renewed threat to Kremlin control over Chechnya.
Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Ralph Boulton