17 August 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 10-16

Conviction passed in Baku to rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus; special operation in Dagestan, where the leader of the "Imarat Kavkaz" was killed; voluntary resignation of Imam Yaraliev from the post of Derbent Mayor; trial in Gyumri of Valery Permyakov, a soldier Russian military base, for desertion and theft of weapons; major forest fire near Gelendjik; start of trying Krasnodar deputy Zirinov by jury in Rostov-on-Don, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 10-16, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Guilty verdict handed down in Baku to rights defender Leyla and Arif Yunus

The trial of Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), and her husband Arif Yunus, a political scientist, accused of economic crimes and treason, was over in Baku. The spouses were recognized to be "prisoners of conscience" by the "Amnesty International"; and Azerbaijani rights defenders put then on the list of political prisoners. Both denied their guilt and treated the prosecution of them as revenge of Azerbaijani authorities for their human rights activities. However, on August 13, they were convicted: Leyla Yunus was sentenced to 8.5 years, and Arif Yunus – to 7 years of imprisonment. Their advocates stated that the above terms in fact mean death sentences, noting that at the time of announcing the verdict their state of health was very poor. In particular, Arif Yunus fainted twice during the last session.

The verdict to Leyla and Arif Yunus was condemned by the Council of Europe, the PA OSCE and international human rights organizations; it was criticized by Ane Tusvik Bunde, the spokesperson of the Human Rights House Foundation, and officials from the UK and the US. In its turn, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated the inadmissibility of politicization of the verdict.

CTO in Dagestan, where leader of "Imarat Kavkaz" was killed

On August 10, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) was conducted in Dagestan, in which Magomed Suleimanov, who headed, since May this year, the "Imarat Kavkaz", recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia, was killed. The CTO regime was introduced in the Untsukul District on August 10 early in the morning. On the following day, power agents reported that they had killed four members of the militant grouping; and one power agent was wounded. Among the casualties, they named Kamil Saidov, the leader of Dagestani militants, and Abdula Abdullaev, the commander of the militants from the "mountainous sector" of Dagestan. Experts suggested that out of the surviving respected militants of Northern Caucasus, Aslambek Vadalov, the leader of Vilayat Nokhchicho (Ichkeria), is most likely to become the next leader of "Imarat Kavkaz".

Voluntary resignation of Derbent Mayor Imam Yaraliev

On August 11, Imam Yaraliev, the head of the Dagestani city of Derbent, resigned before term on his own will. According to Milrad Fatullaev, the director of the RIA "Derbent", Yaraliev's decision to resign from the post of the head of the city, which will celebrate its 2000th anniversary on September 15, was made after the meeting of the head of Dagestan Ramazan Abdulatipov with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On August 12, it became known that the post of the Acting Mayor of Derbent was offered to Gadjimet Safaraliev, 65, a State Duma MP. According to local experts, Safaraliev will be able to hide before Moscow the shortcomings of the preparation for the celebration of the city's jubilee; however, experts differed in their forecast of the term of Safaraliev's stay in the post. Local observers believe that the resignation of Yaraliev was not connected with the Azerbaijani lobby or the struggle for the resources allocated to prepare the city's anniversary, but was a result of the policy aimed to improve the governance and strengthen the control over local authorities, pursued by the federal centre and the head of Dagestan.

In Gyumri, Russian court sentences Permyakov to 10 years in colony for desertion and theft of firearms

On August 12, at its session in the Armenian city of Gyumri, the Russian Garrison Military Court convicted Valery Permyakov on charges of desertion, and theft and illegal possession of firearms. The soldier of the 102nd Russian military base deployed in Gyumri, who is also accused of massacring the Armenian Avetisyan family, was sentenced to 10 years in a high security colony. At the session, Permyakov refused to give new testimonies. According to his earlier evidence, given in the course of investigation and announced at the trial, Permyakov escaped from his military unit, because he did not want to take his service there and planned to return home. According to his story, he took his firearms aiming to frighten someone and take clothes and money. He occasionally found himself in the house of the Avetisyan family; and when someone of the family woke up, he got scared and shot them all dead.

On the same day, the case of Valery Permyakov on desertion and massacre of the Avetisyan family was handed over, following the agreement with the Russian Federation, to Armenia. In their comments on the verdict, Armenian experts said that the trial had failed to reveal the real reasons for massacring the Avetisyan family, and that the answers to the questions on the case of the massacre, which had been earlier handed over to the Armenian party, are expected to be received at the court of Armenia.

Major fire in forest near Gelendjik

On August 9, near the city of Gelendjik, in the KrasnodarTerritory, in the area of dwelling settlements of Praskoveevka and Djankhot, a forest fire broke out. By morning on August 10, the fire area reached 60 hectares. In this context, Gelendjik was put under the state of emergency. At night on August 11, they managed to localize the fire; and in the morning on August 11, it was extinguished. The fire burned down a massif of Pitsunda pine-tree, included into the Red Book of Russia. None of the locals and tourists was hurt.

In the opinion of activists of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus", the fire could be set deliberately – to clear land for building luxury housing. After the entry into the forest near Gelendjik is allowed, they plan to visit the fire scene.

Rostov court selects jurymen for case of Krasnodar Deputy Zirinov

Last week, Rostov-on-Don began considering the case of Sergey Zirinov, a Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the KrasnodarTerritory, and his five alleged accomplices, accused of murders and creation of a criminal grouping. On August 11, the court selected 20 jurors for the case. On August 13, the court listened to the suffered party, Nikolai Nesterenko, Deputy Ataman of the Anapa Cossack Army, who was attempted on in February 2013, when his driver was killed.

According to the prosecutor, who also addressed the court, Zirinov's grouping appeared in Anapa in summer of 1999; all its members had been tied up by a long acquaintance, joint businesses, and joint study at educational establishments. Zirinov himself refuses to plead guilty. His advocate believes that her client's only "fault" is that he is very good in running his business; and "someone liked" this business very much.

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