20 years under Putin: a timeline

In January, IMR launched a new human rights project—a monthly digest dedicated to serious human rights violations in Russia. Many of these incidents take place in the regions and rarely end up in the national media in Russia, let alone in the west. Our goal is to bridge this gap.

 

Upper row (left to right): Azat Miftakhov (the People's Self-Defense case), Khasan Katsiev, Murad Daskeiv (Ingushetia case). Lower row: Malsag Uzhakhov, Zarifa Sautiyeva, Musa Malsagov  (Ingushetia case).

 

Ingushetia case: new charges, arrests, and a guilty verdict

  • March 27 marked the one-year anniversary of peaceful protests in Magas, capital of Ingushetia, against a controversial agreement to redraw the borders of that republic—a proposal that would mean Ingushetia would lose some of its territories to neighboring Chechnya. As part of the government response to the protests, dozens of Ingush activists and opposition members are being prosecuted. “The machine of political persecution in Ingushetia doesn’t stop,” said Memorial, a human rights group, in a statement.
  • According to Memorial, as of late March, 41 people have been criminally charged over the police crackdown on the Magas protests, with 22 already given guilty verdicts for allegedly using violence against the police (part 1, article 318 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four months to 23 Most of the defendants don’t admit guilt, or only admit it partially.
  • In March, arrests were extended for the members of the Ingush opposition—Bagaudin Khautiev, Musa Malsagov, Barakh Chemurziev, Akhmed Barakhoyev, Malsag Uzhakhov, and Zarifa Sautiyeva—already charged in this case. All six are accused of using violence against the police (part 3, article 33; and part 2, article 318 of the Criminal Code), with Malsagov, Barakhoev and Uzhakhov additionally charged with creating an extremist organization (part 1, article 282), and the other three with participating in such an organization (part 2, article 282). Most of them have been held in custody since April 2019.
  • In the meantime, in early March, two more Ingushetia residents, Akhmed Chakhkiev and Zaurbek Dzaurov,were arrested on charges of using violence against the police during the Magas protests. Another activist, former policeman Khasan Katsiev, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison for allegedly kicking a Rosgvardia (national guard) police officer (part 1, article 318).
  • As part of the crackdown on the Ingush opposition, on March 27, Ingushetia’s Supreme Court ruled to liquidate the Council of the Teyps (Clans) of the Ingush People, a regional indigenous organization, on account of its alleged interference in the work of the authorities and the disclosure of state secrets. It came as no surprise, since many of the prosecuted Ingush opposition leaders are members of the council. The authorities also cited concerns over the council’s allegedly controversial branding, charter, and some public statements. Despite the fact that the council agreed to eliminate all the alleged violations to preserve the organization, the authorities were nonplussed.
  • An administrative case was also opened against Murad Daskiev, cochairman of the Council of the Teyps, after the council released a statement calling for a boycott of the upcoming referendum on amending the Russian Constitution.

 

The case of Azat Miftakhov: repressions against anarchists

  • On March 25, a Moscow court extended for five months the detention of Azat Miftakhov, a 27-year-old postgraduate student of the Moscow State University, a mathematician and proponent of anarchist views, who has been accused of attacking an office belonging to the United Russia party.
  • Initially, Miftakhov was detained in February 2019 on suspicion of making an explosive device, but was released from custody a few days later due to a lack of evidence against him. He was then detained again immediately after that, this time on suspicion of vandalism. The charge was later changed to “hooliganism committed by a group of persons by previous concert” (part 2, article 213 of the Criminal Code). Under that charge, Miftakhov could face up to seven years in prison.
  • According to investigation, Miftakhov was part of the group that on January 31, 2018, broke the window of the United Russia office in northern Moscow and threw a smoke flare into the building. Other members of the group allegedly include: Yelena Gorban, Andrei Yeykin, Aleksei Kobaidze, and Svyatoslav Rechkalov. According to the FSB, all of them are linked to the People’s Self-Defense (Narodnaya Samooborona), a radical left anarchist movement.
  • The prosecution case against Miftakhov is based on the testimony of only one secret witness who, a year after the incidence at the United Russia office, managed to recognize the defendant by his “expressive eyebrows.”
  • Miftakhov doesn’t admit guilt and links the case against him to political views. People’s Self-Defense activists believe that it is all an attempt by siloviki to fabricate a new “high-profile case” on extremism, similar to the cases of Network (Set’) and New Greatness (Novoye Velichiye).
  • Miftakhov’s lawyer has reported that during questioning the defendant had been beaten, tortured with a screwdriver, and threatened with sexual violence. He is also the only person in the group of suspects held in custody. Gorban is under pledge not to leave Moscow, Yeykin admitted guilt and struck a deal with the prosecution, and Rechkalov and Kobaidze fled Russia (their case is currently being investigated under a separate procedure).
  • Russian mathematicians published an open letter in Miftakhov’s support. It was consequently signed by hundreds of scientists across the world, including the US linguist Noam Chomsky.
  • The human rights group Memorial has recognized Miftakhov as political prisoner. “We see the crushing of all non-systemic, informal self-organization, especially, although not only, of young people. There have been numerous prosecutions on trumped up charges of groups of people whom the law enforcement agencies dislike and who have other views,” the organization said in its statement.

 

Human rights and COVID-19

  • Human rights activists are increasingly concerned with the coronavirus pandemic. Its infection rate is especially high in prisons due to overincarceration, lack of quality health care, and impossibility to self-isolate.
  • Many countries, including the US, Germany, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Iran, have been taking measures to offload the prison system by declaring amnesty for prisoners who don’t present a danger to the public, deferring punishments, and releasing inmates early on parole.
  • Russian human rights advocates call for similar measures, such as the release from pre-trial detentions and prisons of senior citizens, people with chronic conditions, and minor offenders—or the changing of their pre-trial restrictions.
  • Russian authorities are not rushing to respond. On April 1, inmates at a Moscow prison reported to human rights groups about dozens of cases coronavirus symptoms, but no one was tested for the disease.
  • Earlier in March, one of the defendants in the so-called “Moscow case,” Yegor Lesnykh, was denied a coronavirus test and even other medical treatment, despite symptoms of a high fever and cough.
  • On March 26, the lawyer of Zarifa Sautiyeva, a defendant in the Ingushetia case (detailed above) requested that she be released from custody due to a chronic condition that puts her into a high-risk group for coronavirus infection. Similar requests were filed with regards to two other defendants in this case—Akhmed Barakhoyev and Malsag Uzhukhov. These requests are still pending.
  • In a special statement, human rights activists also called for urgent measures to release migrants held in temporary reception centers for foreign citizens. Due to the suspension of air travel, deportation from Russia is now stalled, with many migrants and their family members stuck in these temporary facilities.

 

IMR would like to announce a new vacancy position in the capacity of president of the organization. The potential candidates should have at least 10 years of relevant experience, profound knowledge of Russian politics, and understanding of the current US media and political landscape. Please refer to the full job description here.

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