28 May 2018, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 21-27, 2018

Detention in Karachay-Cherkessia of 11 people suspected of extremism; pardoning of prisoners in Azerbaijan and Georgia; hunger strikes in protest held in Krasnodar, Sochi and Makhachkala; events for the memory of victims of the Caucasian War, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 21-27, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Law enforcers report defeating group of extremists in Karachay-Cherkessia

On May 24, sources from the law enforcement bodies reported the detention in Karachay-Cherkessia of 11 supporters of the extremist organization "At-Takfir Wal-Hijra", banned by Russia. Sources report that all members of the grouping were detained, including three of its leaders. According to the law enforcement bodies, members of the grouping extorted money from entrepreneurs. During searches of the suspects' ten houses and garages, law enforcers found extremist materials and weapons. On May 25, the FSB confirmed the detention of 11 people and reported they were detained in the territory of the Adyge-Khabl and Khabez Districts of Karachay-Cherkessia. The detainees planned to create in Northern Caucasus a state with a Sharia form of government, state the law enforcement bodies. It should be noted that defendants sentenced in April 2016 for plotting a terror act in the "Kyrgyzstan" cinema in Moscow were also declared members of the "At-Takfir Val-Hijra". However, rights defenders recognized 15 people sentenced in the case as political prisoners. According to the rights defenders, the court's conclusions about the defendants' involvement in the banned organization were ungrounded. "Moreover, experts have doubts about the very existence of the organization," the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" reports.

777 people pardoned in Azerbaijan and Georgia

On May 24, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev signed a resolution to pardon 634 prisoners. The pardoning is timed to the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijani People's Republic, which will be celebrated on May 28. The numbers of the pardoned prisoners includes 12 people from the list of political prisoners prepared by a working group of Azerbaijani rights defenders, activists of NGOs, and lawyers. As of March, the above list contained 142 names. The rights defenders are disappointed about the pardoning. According to Bashir Suleimanly, a member of the civil society working group on drawing up a single list of political prisoners, pardoned persons from the list of political prisoners are mostly believers who are not major political and public figures and who have served almost the entire sentence. Besides, on May 24, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili also signed a decree on pardoning. According to his decree, 84 people will be released from prisons, and for other 59 prisoners their terms of imprisonment have been shortened.

Residents of Southern Russia try to solve their problems through hunger strikes

During the past week, residents of three cities in Southern Russia held hunger strikes and voiced various demands. On May 21, in Krasnodar, five activists from the "Social Justice" Foundation and the movement "Putin's Detachments" went on hunger strike to protest against frequent inspections of the movement and attempts of the local authorities to liquidate the foundation. On May 22, in Sochi, real estate investors of the "Index" housing and construction company, who invested their money in construction of a multi-storey building in Bambukovaya Street, declared hunger strike. They demanded to recognize them as owners of apartments in a 17-storey house, given by court to one of the plaintiffs to cover the developer's debts to her. Four persons started the hunger strike. They are supported by other 20 real estate investors, who themselves cannot go on hunger strike for health or family reasons. On May 24, an ambulance was called to the hunger-strikers because of deterioration in their health state, and medical officers offered to hospitalize them. The hunger-strikers refused to go to the hospital, but stopped their protest on the advice of the doctors.

In Makhachkala, drivers of №61A taxi route continue their hunger strike started on May 14. The taxi drivers are dissatisfied with the working conditions set up by the company. Protestors join the hunger strike in turn. On May 24, the third group of 16 drivers joined the protest action, on the other day, three of them felt bad, but refused hospitalization. Several people from the previous groups of hunger-strikers were hospitalized. It is not yet possible to solve the problem raised by the taxi drivers. On May 22, Andrei Guseinov, the chief for the department of industry, transport, communications and road economy, promised the taxi drivers to take action in connection with violations committed by the service company, since the accusations voiced by the taxi drivers had been partially confirmed. According to the official, it will take a lot of time to replace the service company. On May 23, the protesters met Abidin Karchigaev, the envoy of the Dagestani leader. However, according to the taxi drivers, the meeting brought no results.

In Southern Russia and Abkhazia, Circassians commemorate victims of Caucasian War

On May 21, Circassians held events in memory of victims of the Caucasian War, which lasted from 1763 to 1864 and which put the Adyg people on the brink of complete extinction. On that day, Adygea and the Krasnodar Territory held prayer services, rallies, and marches. In Kabardino-Balkaria, people held a memorial procession on the occasion of the 154th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian War. The procession was led by 170 horse riders in national clothing. About 3000 people took part in the procession. Prayer services and rallies in memory of victims of the Caucasian War were also held in Karachay-Cherkessia and Abkhazia. In Istanbul, members of the Circassian Diaspora arranged a march in Istiklal Avenue.

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