18 August 2014, 08:32
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 11-17
Murder of Deputy Mufti of North Ossetia; announcement of search of ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili; harassment of civil society activists in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 4-10, 2014, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
North Ossetia: murder of Republic's Deputy Mufti
The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that Rasul Gamzatov, the Imam of the Sunni mosque in Vladikavkaz, who was also Deputy Mufti of North Ossetia, was shot dead on August 16 close to his house. Investigators report that there were two gunmen, while Khadjimurat Gatsalov, the Mufti of North Ossetia, associates Gamzatov's murder with his professional activities. On August 17, the funeral of the Deputy Mufti was attended by over 300 people, who voiced out the opinion that "the murder was aimed against the Islam."
Georgia: ex-President Saakashvili put on the wanted list
On August 13, the General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) bringing the former President Mikhail Saakashvili to criminal liability trial on charges of embezzling budget funds; and on August 14, the GPO put him on the national wanted list.
Earlier, on July 29, the GPO of Georgia accused Saakashvili in absentia of abuse of office at the dispersal of the oppositional rally in November 2007, of the pogrom at the TV Company "Imedi", and of confiscation of property of the billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili. On August 2, the court arrested the ex-president also in absentia. On August 5, the GPO announced a new charge against Saakashvili – of involvement in beating up the MP Valery Gelashvili.
Mikhail Saakashvili treats the criminal case against him as politically motivated.
Volgograd Region: registration of some candidates for Regional Duma cancelled
In Volgograd, a number of candidates for regional MPs have filed lawsuits demanding to remove their rivals from registration. On August 12, the Volgograd Regional Court considered one of these lawsuits and removed Dmitry Krylov, one of the candidates, from the election race; On August 13, the same court considered another similar case and decided not to cancel the registration of Alexander Potapov, the candidate from the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party; on August 14, the same court cancelled the registration of Alexei Zverev, the candidate from the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party, thus satisfying the lawsuit of his rival – Galina Egorova, the candidate of the "Rodina" Party. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Volgograd Region, on September 14, voters will elect out of over 6500 candidates; and candidates are still suing each other all over the region.
Krasnodar Territory bans bus traffic across Kerch Strait
The problem of traffic with the Crimea has escalated after the accession of the peninsula to Russia. The Kerch ferry (the "Krym-Kavkaz" ferry crossing) is no longer coping with the flow of goods and people moved and travelling to the peninsula. Since August 15, the authorities had to restrict the passage of busses across the Strait and announced that a total ban on buses will be introduced on August 20. However later, the United Transport Directorate imposed a total ban on transportation of goods by small commercial trucks and announced that all the bus routes, including charter buses, will be stopped on August 18 at midnight Moscow time.
Rostov Region: humanitarian convoy crosses Russian-Ukrainian border; while press reports Russian militaries crossing the border
On August 14, over 250 lorries sent on August 12 to the east of Ukraine from Moscow were stopped near the city of Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Rostov Region. On August 15, Ukrainian officials began examining the cargos; and on August 16, Kiev recognized the convoy to be really humanitarian. OSCE experts will also check the convoy on August 18-19, said Paul Ricard, the OSCE representative.
On August 15, it became known that Ukrainian power agents had confirmed the reports of British media about crossing the Ukrainian border by a column of Russian militaries on August 14. At the same time, the Border Service of the Russian FSB refuted these reports and stated that the pre-border areas with Ukraine were patrolled by mobile groups, but only in the territory of the Russian Federation. At night on August 15, Ukrainian border guards reported the destruction of the border checkpoint "Uspenka" by the "Grad" fire from the territory of the Rostov Region.
Persecution of civil society activists in Azerbaijan
On August 11, officials of the General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) of Azerbaijan sealed up the office of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in Baku, earlier searched by law enforcers. Employees of the Institute treat the decision as illegal. On the same day, the Court of Appeals of Azerbaijan upheld the detention of Arif Yunus, and employee of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, who is accused of a number of items, including treason.
On August 13, law enforcers arrested Murad Adilov, an activist of the Sabirabad district organization of the oppositional Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), who was suspected of illegal possession and sale of drugs. Murad is a brother of Natig Adilov, the manager of the online-programme "Azerbaijani Hour", broadcast on the website of the oppositional newspaper "Azadlyg". Also on August 13, the Baku Court of Appeal upheld the custody of Intigam Aliev, a rights defender and the head of the Society of Legal Education.
On August 14, the GPO prohibited Gyunai Ismailova, a human rights activist, who was interrogated as a witness in the criminal case initiated against a number of local and foreign NGOs, from leaving the country without permission.