26 October 2005, 15:31

An Open Letter to the Russian Public and the International Community from the relatives of the 13 individuals convicted of the raid on Ingushetia during the night of 21-22 June 2004

We, the relatives and close family of the thirteen individuals charged with the raid on Ingushetia during the night of 21-22 June 2004 and convicted on 3 August 2005 by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia [1], appeal to the Russian Public and international Community to put an end to unlawful treatment and arbitrariness which are being carried out on our relatives.

Despite the fact that the majority of those convicted did not take part in the crimes of which they are accused, which can be proved by a large amount of documentary evidence, to our amazement all of them were found guilty. There are also, amongst those convicted, people who did not know what form the planned operation would take, and once they were brought to the site and realized what they were being asked to do, refused to commit any crimes and left taking others with them (for which there is also evidence). However, the prison terms to which the court sentenced them for refusing to commit a crime are excessively harsh.

It is not possible to express in words, what tortures and humiliations the convicted underwent. The brutality of individual representatives of the Russian security agencies surpasses the brutality demonstrated by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Our relatives have repeatedly appealed to representatives of the authorities, the Prosecutor?s Office and to on-government and human rights organizations, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, asking for protection from torture and demanding that criminal charges be brought against those guilty of subjecting them to degrading treatment, but without success: the use of illegal procedures by representatives of the security agencies was not taken into account by the Court when passing sentence.

Even the way in which the arrests were carried out (in essence an bandit-like attack and abduction) contradicts all the norms of the Russian Federation?s Code on Criminal Procedures. Representatives of the security agencies broke into houses without identifying themselves or giving reasons for their presence, carried out unauthorized searches without witnesses, frequently beat up the suspects? relatives and took our relatives away to an unknown destination. For several hours or even days we did not know where our relatives were being kept. It was during this period that they were subjected to harsh beatings and torture, as a result of which they confessed to crimes which they had not committed.

During the first days of their detainment the suspects were denied the right to use the services of a lawyer, engaged by their relatives. Instead of independent defense lawyers they were only offered the services of an officially approved lawyer, in most cases Laura Khumariants, who working on behalf of the prosecution investigation, did not document the fact of any of the beatings, despite the fact that even a year on their bodies showed signs of the torture, which can be proven by independent medical experts.

During investigation pressure was exerted on the witnesses of defense. Many of them were visited by representatives of security agencies and recommended ?to mind their own business?. Most witnesses initially refused to testify in the court, due to the atmosphere of fear, prevailing in the republic.

Just before the sentence was passed one of the members of Jury (Evloeva) was replaced, who openly expressed doubts that the suspects were guilty of crimes they were charged with. This is just one of the instances of direct pressure on the Jury that we are aware of. Moreover, according to article 335 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, the accused and the advocates were forbidden to speak of torture and unlawful treatment the former underwent in the presence of Jury. This made it difficult for the Jury to make fair decisions. In the majority of cases the evidence offered by prosecution was based mostly on the testimonies of the accused (given under torture). Actions aimed at intimidation have been carried against the most active relatives of the accused. Thus, early in the morning on June 20, 2005 the representatives of security agencies of the Russian Federation broke into the house of Musa Dzangiev, turned everything upside down, threatened his Dzagiev?s wife, her 1,5 years old son and her small niece.

Alikhan Tstetchoev, brother of Tsetchoev Magomed (who was considered guilty despite of the evidence which proves his not committing the crime), disappeared without trace after he was detained in Novosibirsk by militia and handed over to FSB. According to the FAB servicemen they released Alikhan, but they do not deny the fact that thy still have his passport. Alikhan has never been seen again. The parents of brothers Tsetchoev have lost two sons, who had nothing to do with the events of the tragedy of June 21-22, and are still frequently visited by representatives of security services.

Our children, brothers and husbands, have become victims of torture and unlawful treatment. Their basic right to fair trial, guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and by international conventions, has been severely violated. We appeal to the Russian public and the international community to demand reviewing of their criminal cases and investigating crimes committed against our relatives during investigation [2]. Notes

[1] On August 3 2005 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia sentenced (years in prison): Parchiev Adam (8 years); Vyshegurov Magomed (11 years ); Ibragimov Alikhan (13 years); Dzangiev Musa (14 years ); Tsakhigov Magomed (14 years); Daurbekov Magomed (15 years); Yalkhoroev Ahmed (17 years); Tsetchoev Adam (19 years); Tsetchooev Magomed Khamid (19 years); Makhnachev Vladimir (20 years); Ibragimov Arbi (23 years); Tsuroev Ahmed (25 years); Mutsolgov Zaur (25 years).

[2] Several of the cases were reflected in the recent report of HRC "Memorial" "Assembly Line of Violence. Rights Abuse in the Course of Anti-terrorist operations in Ingushetia".

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