12 June 2017, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 5-11

Detention near Bryansk, and then in Belarus, of Murad Amriev, MMA world champion, who claimed to have been tortured in Chechnya and therefore fled from the republic, and his transfer to Chechen power agents; announcement of the first winner at the "Kinotavr" Film Festival in Sochi; parties' debates at trial of Nemtsov's murder; termination of work of Georgia's Constitutional Commission, after which Parliament began considering draft Constitution; start of trying the case of capturing police building in Yerevan by "Sasna Tsrer" detachment; election of the new Speaker of South-Ossetian Parliament, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 5-11, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Athlete, who declared being tortured in Chechnya, got to Chechen power agents

On June 4, Murad Amriev, an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) world champion, who claimed that he had been tortured in Chechnya and, therefore, left the republic for abroad, was detained in the Bryansk Region on charges of using a fraudulent document. After his release, he managed to escape from power agents in masks. In the evening on June 7, he was detained in the Belarusian town of Dobrush. Late in the evening on June 8, Amriev's advocate said that Belarusian power agents had extradited him to Russia. Rights defenders asked the Belarusian police not to extradite Murad Amriev to Russia, stating that he was in danger in Chechnya, as a high-ranking police officer had declared blood feud to his family. However, Belarusian law enforcers handed the athlete over to Russian FSB agents; and on June 9, a law enforcement source said that Amriev was placed into the SIZO (pre-trial prison) of the Staropromyslovsky ROVD (District Interior Division) of Grozny. In the evening of the same day, Igor Kalyapin, the head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), announced that the athlete had been released.

The Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has refuted the blood feud motives in Amriev's case; and the athlete himself said that at that stage he was satisfied with the respect of his rights and was confident of his safety in Chechnya. Amriev also said that he rejected his advocate Pyotr Zaikin, a CPT lawyer, who had been defending him under the agreement. Mr Zaikin stated an athlete's compromise with power agents "based on the local law," adding that Amriev's refusal from his legal help had nothing to do with jurisprudence. According to rights defenders, the athlete's statement about the respect of his rights in Chechnya was caused by the fact that he became a hostage to the situation: now he is not really harassed, but he cannot still express himself completely freely.

"Kinotavr" Film Festival in Sochi announces its first winner

On June 7, Sochi opened the 28th Russian "Kinotavr" Film Festival. The main programme of the festival includes 14 films; seven of them are debuts of young film directors. The opening screened the new film by Pavel Chukhray "Cold Tango" about the events in Lithuania after the World War II. The first contest day was crowned with a special show of Karen Shakhnazarov's film "Anna Karenina", the screening of which in cinemas was also launched on June 8. The show gathered only one third of the hall and failed to arouse public interest, unlike the contest film "Blockbuster". On June 9, Kantemir Balagov, a film director from Nalchik, presented his film "Tesnota" (Closeness), which had won the International Film Press Award at the Cannes Film Festival. At first, the hall was packed, but by the middle of show, spectators began leaving. At the same time, the critics interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" met the film with great admiration.

On June 10, within the main contest, they screened the film "Hostages" by the Georgian film director Rezo Gigineishvili, which had been on the special programme "Panorama" of the 67th Berlin Film Festival. On the same day, they summed up the contest of short films; and the main prize was given to the film "Lalay-Balalay" by Ruslan Bratov, a native of Karachay-Cherkessia. Also, this film was awarded a special prize of the programme "Such Movie"; and its director received a certificate of 1 million roubles for making a short film-almanac "From Point A". The festival will end on June 14 with the show of the almanac "About Love-2" by Anna Melikyan, a producer and screenwriter.

Trial of Nemtsov's murder ends parties' debate

The consideration of the murder case of the Russian oppositionist Boris Nemtsov by the Moscow District Military Court is coming to an end. On June 8, the parties' debate was over. The session listened to the arguments of the advocate of the alleged killer Zaur Dadaev. He asked the jury to acquit his client, saying that Nemtsov's murder had not been solved yet. The advocates of four other defendants also asked for acquittal. The defence of Nemtsov's family also stated that the crime has not been solved, since its organizers and customers are at liberty. In her turn, the state prosecutor stated at the debate that the defendants' guilt had been proved, and asked the jury to pass a guilty verdict. At the upcoming court sessions, the parties will be able to make their remarks and objections; and the defendants will be given their last plea.

Let us note here that during the trial, all the defendants, natives of Chechnya and Ingushetia, claimed their innocence. The figurants in the case are also Chechen army officers Ruslan Mukhudinov, Ruslan Geremeev and Beslan Shavanov; the latter was killed during arrest. Investigators treat Ruslan Mukhudinov as the customer of the murder; however, in the opinion of Nemtsov's family, true customers should be sought among the leadership of Chechnya.

Georgia's Constitutional Commission has completed its work, and Parliament has begun considering draft Constitution

On June 5, the Georgian Parliament began considering the new Constitution draft. The MPs intend to wait for the opinion of the Venice Commission, due on June 16, and to adopt the draft in the first two readings until the end of the month. They plan to consider the document in the third and final reading already at the autumn session, in October. On June 6, Georgian NGOs called on the MPs to postpone the consideration of the draft Constitution until the fall. On the following day, the oppositional "Free Democrats" and Republican Parties found the consideration of the draft hasty and called on the MPs to wait for the Venice Commission's opinion. The State Constitutional Commission had been considering the draft since March 16. On June 6, it completed its work and unanimously adopted a consolidated protocol. In the evening on June 8, the interim opinion of the Venice Commission appeared in Georgian media and triggered confrontation of the Speaker with the Presidential Administration, as well as within the Parliament.

Yerevan starts trying capture of police building by "Sasna Tsrer" detachment

The first court session on the case of the capture of the police building in Yerevan last July was scheduled for June 8. The first group of defendants – members of the "Sasna Tsrer" armed detachment, formed by supporters of the "Constituent Parliament" – consists of 14 persons. Prior to the session, over 50 persons organized a march to the courthouse of the Erebuni and Nubarashen administrative districts, and demanded to release the defendants, as well as all the country's political prisoners. The court session lasted for just a few minutes. The defendants refused to stand up at the entrance of the judge and declared their innocence. Then, the judge decided to postpone the session until June 21, because of the defendants' disrespect of the court. The defendants' advocates criticized the judge's ruling, saying that the defendants had only expressed their disagreement with the charges. Their relatives stated that they had been intentionally deprived of the chance to attend the session, as the courtroom could house forty people only. In total, charges under the case of the capture of the building of the PPS (patrol-and-post service) police regiment were brought against 47 persons.

South-Ossetian MPs elect new Speaker

On June 7, in Tskhinvali, South-Ossetian MPs elected Pyotr Gassiev as their Speaker. 21 out of 32 MPs present voted for him. His rival, Boris Tasoev, won five votes. It should be noted that the need to elect a new Speaker arose due to the fact that on April 18, Anatoly Bibilov, the former Speaker, had to leave the post, as on April 9, he was elected the South-Ossetian President.

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