23 July 2018, 11:35

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 16-22, 2018

Attack of IS* militants on policemen in Dagestan; workers killed by explosion in Georgian mine; start of Oyub Titiev's trial in Chechnya; ECtHR's decision on inefficiency of investigation of Anna Politkovskaya's murder, – read about these and other main events in the Caucasus during the week of July 16-22, 2018, in the review prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

IS* militants attack policemen in Dagestan

In the evening on July 20, a service car of the road-and-patrol (known as DPS) service was shelled on the "Kavkaz" Federal Highway in the Kizilyurt District of Dagestan; the attackers managed to escape in their Lada car. Two of the three policemen, who were in the car, were shot dead; the third one was wounded. The "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization banned in Russia by the court, claimed responsibility for the attack. A law enforcement source stated a link of the attack with the previous IS* attack in Dagestan, namely, the blowing up of the grave of Sheikh Said Afandi of Chirkei in May this year. According to law enforcers, the same militants-members of the so-called "Khasavyurt grouping" were involved in both crimes. The killing of policemen in the Kizilyurt District was the third incident in Dagestan since the start of the year which the IS* claimed responsible for. Since 2015, fifteen militants' attacks have been fixed in Dagestan.

Four workers perish in explosion in a Georgian mine

In the morning on July 16, four miners were killed by explosion that occurred in Mindeli Mine in the Georgian city of Tkibuli; six others were injured. The country's govt ordered to stop the works in the mine. According to the preliminary investigators' version, methane exploded in the mine. A criminal case was opened under the article "A violation of safety rules at conducting mining, construction or other work that entailed a human death" of the Georgia's Criminal Code, which assumes up to five years in prison. On July 17, protesters in Tkibuli urged the authorities not to suspend the mine after the accident, but to observe safety measures there. They stated that the mine maintains the entire city; and should it be stopped, the entire Tkibuli will be paralyzed. According to the "Association of Georgian Trade Unions", 15 people perished in Mindeli and Dzidziguri Mines, located in Tkibuli, within the last 1.5 years.

Court in Chechnya starts trying Oyub Titiev

The Shali City Court of the Chechen Republic appointed the first session on the merits of the case of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Grozny office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", for July 18. Oyub is under arrest since January 11 on charges of possessing marijuana. He would not plead guilty, insisting that the drug had been planted on him by a law enforcer, and filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) about a violation of his right to freedom and political motives of his prosecution. On July 18, the court session was postponed by one day, after the defence stated the absence of one of the advocates, Ilya Novikov, to be a violation of Titiev's right to defence. However, on July 19, the state prosecutor persuaded the court to start the trial in the absence of Novikov. The advocate Novikov himself petitioned to postpone the meeting, since he was busy in another trial and was unable to fly to Grozny.

After the prosecutor reading out the indictment, the court interrogated six witnesses – all of them policemen. They failed to present any significant information about what happened on January 9, the day of Titiev's detention. According to witnesses' testimonies, none of them took part in Titiev's detention and did not see the Oyub's delivery to the ROVD (District Interior Division). Practically on all the defence's questions were answered by the witnesses as "I don't remember" and, occasionally, "I don't know." The questioned prosecution witnesses have no idea about the case and are in fact no witnesses, Galina Tarasova, a coordinator of the "Hot Spots" programme of the HRC "Memorial", has stated. The questioned policemen tried to repeat similar false testimonies for fear that the defence would find discrepancies in them, Titiev's advocates have commented.

ECtHR treats inquiry into Politkovskaya's murder as inefficient

On July 17, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found the investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a "Novaya Gazeta" columnist, shot dead in Moscow on October 7, 2006, to be inefficient. The ECtHR decided that Russian authorities had failed to follow their commitments under Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and obliged Russia to pay 20,000 euros of compensation to Anna's relatives. The decision notes that Russian authorities protracted, for no compelling reasons, the inquiry into Politkovskaya's murder; failing, however, to study the applicants' allegations about a possible involvement of law enforcers and Chechen authorities in the murder. Since Politkovskaya covered the conflict in Chechnya, these versions should have been studied, the decision says. It should be noted here that five natives of Chechnya were convicted within Anna's murder case; however, Russian rights defenders accused Russian authorities of unwillingness to find the customers of her murder. The ECtHR's decision in favour of Anna Politkovskaya's relatives has confirmed that Russian authorities have failed to conduct a complete efficient inquiry into the murder, the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has stated.

* IS ("Islamic State", formerly ISIL) is recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia by the court.

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