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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Ingush Case

Jan 17 2020

Earlier this week new charges have been brought by Russian authorities against four leaders of the Ingush protest movement. A criminal case opened on December 27, 2019 implicated that eight activists and community organizers created and operated an extremist group against the republic’s authorities. In the near future, it’s expected that the others will be charged too.

There is no doubt that the main goals of engineers of the “Ingush case” are to weaken the protest movement in the republic and teach a “lesson” to other Russian regions.

In the fall of 2018, Ingushetia showed the whole Russia that it is possible to protests peacefully and with no threat to the public safety and involve thousands of participants over a course of a few days. To do this, organizers and protesters needed a high level of organizational skills, discipline and responsibility, and the republic authorities required remaining calm and wise. The federal government could not stand that. That’s why in the spring of 2019, when the protests resumed in Ingushetia, a decision was made to suppress them by force, and on March 27, RosGvardiya (Russian National Guard) forces from other regions were thrown to Ingushetia to disperse the peaceful rally. As a result, Investigative Committee officials carried out the order: to bring a case of “violence threatening life or health of government officials” initiated against the leaders of the protest movement. But even that did not seem enough to the Kremlin.

Now based on a report from the “E” Center (anti-extremist agency) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Northern Caucasus Federal District, investigators accuse Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoev and Musa Malsagov of creating an extremist group (Part 1 of Article 282.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, up to 10 years in prison), and Barakh Chemurziev, Akhmed Pogorov, Bagaudin Khautiev, Ismail Nalgiev and Zarifa Sautieva – in participation in this extremist group (Part 2 of Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code, up to 6 years in prison).

In a decision to begin criminal proceedings, an investigator E. Naryzhny claims that no later than in May 2018 Uzhakhov, Barakhoev and Malsagov “united by political hostility towards the acting (at the time) Head of Ingushetia Yunusbek Yevkurov created an extremist group in order to remove Yevkurov from his position”. The “extremist group” was allegedly created “to commit crimes using violence against government officials” (Part 1 of Article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and to “manage a non-profit organization and participate in its activities to incite Russian citizens to other unlawful acts, and to propagate such acts based on political hostility” (Parts 2, 3 of Article 239 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The decision does not explicitly say which particular non-profit organization was meant, but the “Council of the Teips of the Ingush nation” was repeatedly mentioned.

According to the investigator, the created “extremist group at different times” included Chemurziev, Pogorov, Khautiev, Nalgiev, Sautieva and others, and “the forms and methods of activity of the extremist group were the planning, preparation and organization of mass events, including unauthorized ones, video messaging to an undetermined group of people, including residents of Ingushetia, distribution of video messages over the Internet, encouraging citizens to commit illegal actions, obstructing the legitimate activities of government officials.”

The new criminal case against people, most of whom (Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Zarifa Sautieva, Malsag Uzhakhov, and Barakh Chemurziev) had previously been accused in organizing “violence threatening lives or health of government officials”, is nothing more than a recognition of an absurdity and bankruptcy earlier charges. Indeed, in the morning of March 27, 2019, during an unprovoked brutal violent attack on a peaceful protest rally, clashes were caused by just irresponsible actions of the authorities – and the protest leaders, on the contrary, stopped an escalation of violence at the time.

Based on groundless and politically motivated charges under Part 3 of Article 33, Part 2 of Article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (health-threatening violence against government officials), the Memorial Human Rights Center has long recognized Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Zarifa Sautieva, Malsag Uzhakhov, and Barakh Chemurziev as political prisoners. This new criminal case does not change anything in our position. The construction, outlined in the decision to initiate proceedings, criminalizes lawful public activity. A usual interaction of people, simple self-organization and cooperation of citizens is called the distribution of roles within an “extremist group.” People identified among the participants of the protest on the basis of public influence, have been declared “an organized group of people to prepare or commit extremist crimes.”

The Memorial Human Rights Center considers the new criminal case brought against Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoyev, Musa Malsagov, Barakh Chemurziev, Akhmed Pogorov, Bagaudin Hautiev, Ismail Nalgiev and Zarifa Sautieva illegal, unreasonable and politically motivated. This is another step towards the suppression of legitimate social activity, rights and freedoms not only of the residents of Ingushetia, but also of the citizens of Russia as a country. We demand to end the unlawful persecution of protesters in Ingushetia.

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