26 October 2015, 09:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 19-25
Arrest of top-ranking officials of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) of Azerbaijan; opposition's call for resignation of President of Abkhazia; searches at the building of the Russian Pension Fund Department in Makhachkala, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 19-25, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Arrest of seven top-ranking officials of Azerbaijani MNS
On October 20, in Azerbaijan, seven staff members of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) were arrested on charges of abuse of power. This was reported three days after the dismissal from office of Eldar Makhmudov, Minister of National Security, who held the post for more than 10 years. Local experts believe that Eldar Makhmudov could be dismissed from the post because of the shortcomings in the special services' activities in the field of economic security of the country, the oppression of entrepreneurs, and the duplication of functions of other power agencies.
The criminal case against the arrested MNS staff members is being investigated by the General Prosecutor's Office. On October 21, the media announced the names and positions of the arrested officials, including Major General Teimur Guliev, Chief of the Monitoring Centre of the Azerbaijani MNS, Major General Natavan Murvatova, Chief of the Operational and Technical Department of the MNS, Colonel Ilgar Aliev, Deputy Chief of the Anti-Terrorist Centre, Fuzuli Aliev, Chief of the Chief Department for Combating Transnational Economic Crimes, and Farkhad Ataev, a staff member of the Monitoring Centre of the MNS. On October 23, it was reported that four other MNS Generals were dismissed from their posts, including the Chief of the Department for Combating Transnational Economic Crimes. On October 20, Madat Guliev was appointed the First Deputy Minister of National Security of Azerbaijan.
Oppositional "Amtsakhara" Party demands resignation of President of Abkhazia
On October 21, Sukhumi hosted an extraordinary congress of the oppositional "Amtsakhara" Party. Participants of the congress have expressed their distrust in Raul Khadjimba as the President of Abkhazia and demanded his resignation. Raul Khadjimba, who won the pre-term presidential elections on August 24, 2014, has stated that he is not going to meet the demand of the opposition. On the same day, Sukhumi hosted mass rallies held by supporters of the President and supporters of the opposition. The participants of the rallies blame Raul Khadjimba of "the collapse of the already weak economy," "the gradual collapse of the agriculture", the lack of reforms in the law enforcement system, and the unresolved problem with the passportization of the Georgian population of east Abkhazia, instead of the promised fundamental reforms.
According to Izida Chaniya, the editor-in-chief of the Abkhazian edition "Nuzhnaya Gazeta", all the above problems can trigger a new crisis in the republic. The Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia has announced the enhanced security measures in the republic and called on supporters of the current government and supporters of the opposition "to act strictly within the law."
In Armenia, court releases life prisoner for health reasons
On October 22, in Armenia, for the first time in the history of the state, the trial granted the motion to release life prisoner Sogomon Kocharyan from prison for health reasons. His representatives have stated that the decision on the release was made under pressure from the public.
The court's decision in the Sogomon Kocharyan's case was made against the background of the demands to review the criminal cases voiced by Armenian residents sentenced to life imprisonment, who held a hunger strike in prison "Nubarashen" on October 12-16. They were supported by protest actions of their relatives. The hunger strike was suspended in waiting for a response to the prisoners' letters from the presidential administration.
Georgia faces political scandal after release of video on torture of detainee during Mikhail Saakashvili's rule
On October 19 and 20, a series of attacks on the offices of the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party took place in Tbilisi, Batumi, Gori, Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, and Poti. In the course of them, only one person was detained. Members of the UNM have stated that the attacks were organized by the ruling coalition "Georgian Dream" to discredit the opponents. Members of the organization "Free Generation", who took part in the attacks, explained their actions by the fact that on October 17, a secret video was made public showing torture of a detainee in the period when the UNM was the ruling party. Members of the UNM themselves called the video leak a provocation prepared by the "Georgian Dream".
After that, President Georgy Margvelashvili has stated that the situation with the UNM and the "Rustavi 2" TV Channel has created the preconditions for a breach of the constitutional order in the country. Georgian political analysts agreed with Georgy Margvelashvili.
Searches in building of Dagestani Department of Russian Pension Fund
On September 21, in Makhachkala, law enforcers blocked the entrances and exits in the building of the Dagestani Department of the Russian Pension Fund (RPF). Investigators conduct searches at the RPF's building within the investigation into the criminal case of two murders committed in 2010, involving Sagid Murtazaliev, the head of the Dagestani Department of the Russian Pension Fund. This was reported by Vladimir Markin, Spokesman of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF). Vladimir Markin has also noted that the searches were carried out at working places of a number of staff members of the RPF's Dagestani Department in order to obtain the information relevant to the investigation into the criminal case. The actions of law enforcers paralyzed the offices of the RPF's Department in Makhachkala, since they switched off the web servers of the organization and did not allow staff members of the RPF's Dagestani Department to enter the building during the searches.
Verdict of guilty against Sochi Vice-Mayor Oleg Vronsky
On October 22, in Sochi, the court pronounced the verdict of guilty against Oleg Vronsky, the former Vice-Mayor, under Part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (abuse of power). The court found him guilty on seven episodes and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony with deprivation of the right to hold executive posts during three years. The former Vice-Mayor of Sochi was taken into custody in the courtroom. The public prosecutor demanded to sentence Oleg Vronsky to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony. The defendant pleaded not guilty and announced his intention to appeal against the court's decision. Oleg Vronsky, who resigned from the post of the Vice-Mayor in 2013, was charged with abuses committed when issuing building permits.