14 March 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 7-13

Attacks on journalists and rights defenders on Ingush-Chechen border; explosion at a mosque in Nazran injuring four persons; death of two suspected militants in the CTO in Dagestan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 7-13, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Attacks on journalists and rights defenders committed on Ingush-Chechen border

On March 9, as a result of an attack committed by unidentified persons in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia, not far from the border with Chechnya, eight human rights defenders and journalists were beaten up, as well as the driver of the minivan of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), who were on their way to Grozny. The minivan was burnt down. As a result, four persons, including journalists from Norway and Sweden, were hospitalized.

According to Alexander Cherkasov, Chairman of the Board of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" the attack prevented the journalists to highlight the court session on the case of citizens of Ukraine Nikolai Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh. The attackers arrived in cars with Chechen license number plates, and, according to the victims, spoke Russian with an accent. Despite the fact that the attack took place in Ingushetia, it should be linked with the authorities of Chechnya, said the rights defenders, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Igor Kalyapin, Head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), said that in this way the Chechen authorities are squeezing rights defenders out of the region.

The inquiry into the attack is conducted by the Ingush police on the articles of hooliganism and destruction of property. The lawyers, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", pointed out that attributes of banditry are present in the attackers' actions. On March 12, an article on an assault in concert aimed to steal property was added to the case on beating. The inquiry was taken under personal control by Sergey Melikov, the presidential envoy in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD). However, the experts, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe that the investigation, even if intervened by Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, will not lead to the detention of customers.

Four persons injured by explosion at mosque in Nazran

On March 11, a car went off near the mosque in the municipal district of Nasyr-Kort of the city of Nazran. According to eyewitnesses, the incident was an attempt on Imam Khamzat Chumakov. According to the reception ward of the Ingush Republic's Hospital, after the explosion four victims were brought there; one of them, Israil Mutsolgov, was severely wounded.

The Coordination Centre of Muslims of Northern Caucasus believe that the reason for the attempt on Chumakov was in his disagreements with the parishioners and his condemnation of the attack on journalists and rights defenders in Ingushetia, in which on March 9 nine persons were beaten up. In his sermon pronounced on March 11 Imam Chumakov sharply criticized the attack, and also stated that an attack was being plotted on him, said an employee of the mosque in Nasyr-Kort. Also, sources reported that before the attempt on the Imam, an unidentified man tried twice to provoke him. On the day of the assassination attempt, he invited Chumakov and mosque-goers to go to the place, where the car then exploded.

After the explosion, the authorities of Nazran took reinforced control over crowded places. The head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov ordered to install video cameras in mosques, as well as to ensure safety of residents during Friday prayers.

Power agents kill two suspected militants in CTO in Dagestan

The counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime was introduced in the Khunzakh and Botlikh Districts of Dagestan. In the village of Orota, Khunzakh District, according to villagers, power agents were inspecting houses and other structures. An armed skirmish broke out in the outskirt of the village; two persons were killed. The Russian National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) announced the casualties as the persons involved in murders in 2014 of civilians and the Imam of the mosque of the village of Gotsatl. According to a law enforcement source, Magomed Gadjimagomedov, a former policeman, and Hadjimurad Gadjiev, a graduate of the Institute of the Prosecutor's Office, were killed in the crossfire. They had been on the wanted list since October 2014. Later, the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) announced that the casualties had been pre-identified as Magomed Gadjimagomedov and Sabir Rashidov. The CTO regime in the Khunzakh District was cancelled on March 12.

Imam and three other residents of Pankisi Gorge in Georgia convicted for recruitment in IS

On March 7, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced four residents of the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia, including Imam Ayuf Borchashvili. They are convicted on charges of recruiting militants and their belonging to the terrorist "Islamic State" (IS). Three of them were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 14 years in prison; and the defendant Giorgi Kuprava pled guilty and received one year in prison. The prosecution failed to provide proofs of recruiting Georgian citizens to the IS by Ayuf Borchashvili, said the advocate Gela Nikolaishvili.

Court on Savchenko's case appoints date of announcing verdict

On March 9, the Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who is accused of involvement in the murder of Russian journalists, made their last plea at the Donetsk City Court of the Rostov Region. Ms Savchenko stated again that she did not find herself guilty and threatened to continue her dry hunger strike she started on March 3 after the announcement of the verdict. The court set the date for the announcement – March 21 and 22. The health status of the Ukrainian airwoman is getting worse: she feels fever and has increased temperature, said her advocate Nikolai Polozov. On March 10, Nadezhda Savchenko, after meeting her advocate at the SIZO (pre-trial prison), announced that she began drinking water, but would continue her hunger strike.

On the day of Savchenko's last plea and on the eve thereof, the countries of Southern Caucasus, as well as several other countries around the world held actions in her support. Thus, in Tbilisi on March 9 members of parliamentary minority factions called for the immediate release of Savchenko. On March 8, a group of Armenian activists held a protest action at the Russian Embassy in Yerevan, also demanding the release Savchenko. In Azerbaijan, the oppositional "Musavat" Party voiced out criticism to the Savchenko's trial. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has treated the statements in defence of Savchenko as attempts to put pressure on the court.

Debates on appeal in Said Amirov's case completed at SC of Russia

On March 11, the Russia's Supreme Court (SC) finalized the debates on the complaint lodged by advocates of the figurants in the case initiated against the former Mayor of Makhachkala Said Amirov against the verdict of the first instance. The state prosecutors asked to leave the verdict unchanged, and to dismiss the appeal complaint. The board of judges granted the convicts' request to hold consultations with advocates; the hearings have been postponed until March 17.

On March 9, the Amirov's defence filed a motion asking to send him to the hospital. According to his advocates, he needs constant medical care, but the SIZO has no proper conditions. However, the motion was dismissed. On March 10, it was announced at the trial that the investigation had violated the defendants' rights and ignored the advocates' arguments; and Amirov stated the use of torture to the case figurants.

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