20 March 2017, 09:30
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on March 13-19
Death of Arthur Sargsyan, who held a 25-day hunger strike in Armenia; end of registration of presidential candidates by CEC of South Ossetia and protests of Kokoity’s supporters; decision of ECtHR on beating up journalists and rights defender in Ingushetia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus on March 13-19, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Arthur Sargsyan dies after 25-day-long hunger strike in Armenia
Arthur Sargsyan, accused of supporting the "Sasna Tsrer" detachment, died on March 16 in the Yerevan "Armenia" Medical Centre, after his 25-day hunger strike, which Sargsyan announced in protest against his arrest.
On July 26, 2016, in Yerevan, the young man, known as a "bread-bringer", broke through the police cordon around the PPS (patrol-and-post service) building, captured by rebels, and brought foodstuffs to the detachment members. Then, he stayed with them, and was detained together with them, after the detachment surrendered to law enforcers. On March 6, the prosecutor's office released Sargsyan to freedom; but on the same day, he was hospitalized. Doctors said that Sargsyan died in the intensive care unit from cardiac arrest after surgery because of a serious malfunction of his gastrointestinal tract.
After Sargsyan's death, about a hundred Yerevan residents staged a protest march, stating that the officials were guilty, because they had kept the activist remained in custody for a long time. The Sargsyan's defence demanded an independent inquiry into his death. On March 17, activists demanded from the authorities to allow burying Sargsyan into the military cemetery. The march to the building of the government in Yerevan with the aim to hand over the letter with this demand to the authorities was about 2000 strong. On the following day, citizens of Yerevan held a repeated march with the same demand. About 25 protesters stated their intention to continue their sit-in protest outside the governmental building. The funeral of Sargsyan will be held on March 22 at the Shaumyan Cemetery.
CEC of South Ossetia stop registering presidential candidates; supporters of rejected Kokoity hold protest rallies
In South Ossetia, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has completed registering candidates for the presidential election, scheduled for April 9. On March 14, it became known that Amiran Bagaev and Alan Kozonov also were rejected. Thus, three candidates passed the registration stage: the incumbent president Leonid Tibilov, the Speaker of the Parliament Anatoly Bibilov, and Alan Gagloev, a KGB officer. Earlier, on March 4, Eduard Kokoity, who headed the republic from 2001 to 2011, was rejected. He appealed against this decision, but the Supreme Court (SC) of South Ossetia upheld it on March 14.
The consideration of Kokoity's complaint by the SC took place against the background of a rally of his supporters in Tskhinvali, who demanding resignation of Tibilov. The talks held at the Security Council resulted in an agreement of Kokoity and the incumbent president to meet. However, on March 15, the meeting failed; and supporters threatened to intensify protests. On March 19, Kokoity announced the start of an indefinite campaign for Tibilov’s resignation. His supporters gathered at the government building, and dispersed after the talks, after where authorities again promised a meeting of Kokoity with Tibilov.
ECtHR obliges Russia to pay compensation to journalists and rights defender beaten up in Ingushetia
On March 14, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced the responsibility of Russian authorities for violating the rights of rights defender Oleg Orlov and three television journalists, who were kidnapped and beaten up in Ingushetia in 2007. Oleg Orlov, the head of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", and journalists of the Ren-TV Karen Sakhinov, Artyom Vysotsky and Stanislav Goryachikh were kidnapped in Nazran on November 23, 2007. Their documents, communication means, laptops and video equipment were taken away from them; power agents threatened to kill them. Orlov is sure that they were kidnapped by law enforcers. The ECtHR has obliged Russia to compensate the legal costs suffered by Oleg Orlov and the journalists, as well as their material damage, and to pay 19,500 euros to each in compensation for moral harm. The applicants believe that the main point in the ECtHR’s decision is the recognition of the responsibility of the state and the demand to punish the perpetrators, and not the amounts of compensations.
CEC of Abkhazia registers new MPs on March 12 election outcomes
On March 15, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia reported that on March 12, it registered 11 independent MPs and one party MP (Almas Djapua from the "Ainar" Party). The elections were recognized as valid in all 35 constituencies, but in 22 constituencies, it was decided to hold the second round, and in one – the re-election. The second round is scheduled for March 26, and the re-election – for May 14. The registered MPs include the former president of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab.
On March 12, after the announcement of the election outcomes, there were two incidents with the candidates, who reached the second round. On March 16, the car of Batal Aiba caught fire in Sukhumi; and the candidate said it was an attempt to thwart his election campaign. On March 18, in the village of Achguara in the Ochamchira District, the car of Kakha Pertaya was shelled, when, according to some reports, he was on the way to a meeting with voters.
Kuban farmers start preparing new "tractor march"
On March 13, Moscow hosted a press conference of Kuban farmers, who for the past few years kept reporting about problems with raider seizure of land plots; and in the summer of 2016, they tried to hold a tractor march to Moscow. It was announced about the plans to conduct a new "tractor march" this spring, said Alexei Volchenko, the leader of the movement "Polite Farmers". The new action will be coordinated with the authorities, in order to avoid detentions of its participants, said the farmers. Apart from farmers, taxi drivers and truckers will take part in the action.
It is noteworthy that on March 15 a meeting took place of the Chairman of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) Alexander Bastrykin with the initiative group of Kuban farmers, including those who, after the failed "tractor march", complained about pressure from power agents. The farmers, who assessed the meeting positively, on the whole, after the meeting stated pressure on the shareholders from the Kavkazsky District, who testified in favour of the activists Nikolai Borodin and Elena Petrova, accused of land frauds. Nikolai and Elena deny their guilt and assert that the case against them was initiated in the interests of raiders.
Five political prisoners pardoned in Azerbaijan
On March 16, the Azerbaijani President pardoned 423 persons by timing his act to the Muslim holiday of Novruz-Bayram. Among the pardoned, there are five persons earlier recognized as political prisoners, namely: Nazim Agabekov, a brother-in-law of Emin Milli, the head of the Internet-based edition “Meydan.tv”, based in Berlin (Agabekov released from conditional sentence); Rovshan Zakhidov and Rufat Zakhidov, relatives of Ganimat Zakhidov, the editor-in-chief of the “Azadlyg” newspaper, who is in political emigration; the blogger Abdul Abilov; and a young activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) Elvin Abdullaev (Abdullazade). All of them had been convicted under drug-related cases; and human rights organizations recognized them as political prisoners.