Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 4

Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 24 that Memorial had received information that the relative of a Chechen who had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has been tortured since his detention at the end of December. According to Memorial, Metkhi Mukhaev was taken from the home of his cousin Ilyas Agashev by a group of unidentified armed people in camouflage uniforms on December 29. Mukhaev’s relatives were subsequently able to learn that he had been taken to Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district, where he was sentenced to 15 days in jail for “petty hooliganism.” He was then transferred to the Itum-Kale police department, and then to authorities in Chechnya’s Shatoi district. Relatives of Mukhaev inquired about him at the offices of the inter-district prosecutor but were told nothing was known about his detention. On January 16, however, they were told he had been transferred five days earlier to the central Grozny prosecutor’s office.

On January 17, Memorial determined that Mukhaev had been transferred on January 13 to the custody of the Operational-Search Bureau of the North Caucasus Operations Department of the Chief Directorate of the Russian Interior Ministry in the Southern Federal District (ORB-2) on suspicion of violating part 2 of Article 209 of Russia’s Criminal Code, which covers participation in an armed group involved in, inter alia, attacks on citizens, contract killings, banditry, robbery and illegal weapons possession. Mukhaev was transferred to a remand prison the following day and was able to see a lawyer on January 20. According to the lawyer, Mukhaev said that during the 11 days he was incarcerated in Shatoi he was shown photos of people and asked if he knew them, and beaten when he responded that he did not. He said his interrogators also pointed guns at him and cocked the weapons. Mukhaev said he was then transferred to Grozny, where he was beaten and subjected to electric shocks for three days. Mukhaev said he was then taken to see an “investigator Pastukhov,” who again asked him questions he could not answer, after which he was again tortured and told that the federal authorities wanted him transferred to the Khankala military base, from where he would disappear for good. Mukhaev said he was subsequently questioned in the presence of some Russians.

According to Memorial, materials from the criminal case against Mukhaev indicate that he was detained on the testimony of a certain Gamaev, who testified that Mukhaev belonged to his armed group. A lawyer who was present during one of Gamaev’s interrogations said Gamaev was unable to stand up as a result of beatings and torture.

Memorial has called on the Prosecutor General’s Office to take immediate measures to investigate instances of torture and beating by officers of the ORB-2 and the Shatoi police, to protect Mukhaev and Gamaev from illegal methods of conducting an investigation and to ensure that the investigation is objective. “We call your attention to the fact that M.M. Mukhaev is the member of the family of petitioners to the European Court for Human Rights about the kidnapping of people in the village of Zumskoi on 15-16 January 2005, which gives grounds for seeing the illegal actions directed against him as an attempt at revenge, or [as] the intimidation of witnesses by the power structures,” Memorial said in its appeal to the Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.

Meanwhile, a Chechen Interior Ministry source told Interfax on January 23 that a young Russian woman who had been abducted the previous day was freed as a result of a joint operation conducted by the Chechen OMON and Grozny’s Leninsky district police department. The source said the woman, a student of the Chechen State University and a Krasnodar Krai resident, was abducted near the Grozny market by four men who demanded several thousand dollars in ransom. Two of the abductors, apparently Urus-Martan district residents, were captured when they went to collect the ransom, and led police to where the victim was being held. The two other kidnappers remain at large.