–TREPASHKIN BACK IN JAIL
Mikhail Trepashkin, the former Federal Security Service officer who investigated the alleged role of the FSB in the 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities and was jailed in October 2003 on charges of revealing state secrets, was re-imprisoned on September 18 just weeks after being released from prison in Nizhny Tagil less than halfway through his four-year sentence. The Associated Press reported that a Sverdlovsk region court overturned a lower court decision to release him early for good behavior. Trepashkin’s wife, Tatyana, told Ekho Moskvy that police officers read the court ruling and said that they were taking him back to the prison in Nizhny Tagil. “They were after him so much that now they will not let him go,” she told the radio station. Trepashkin claims that charges against were fabricated in revenge for his allegations that the FSB were involved in the 1999 apartment building bombings. The FSB claimed he was recruited by Britain ‘s MI5 to collect compromising materials on the explosions with the aim of discrediting the FSB. Alex Goldfarb, an aide to Boris Berezovsky, told the AP that Trepashkin was in Kiev with his wife on September 17 and refused an offer from Berezovsky to help him fly to a Western European country and apply for political asylum.
–RUSSIAN-CHECHEN FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY UNDER PRESSURE
The New York Times on September 18 highlighted the plight of the Nizhny Novgorod-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD) that Russian authorities, as correspondent Steven Lee Myers wrote, “are hounding out of existence.” Russia ‘s federal tax service has billed the group for $35,000 in taxes it allegedly evaded plus fines, while the Justice Ministry has scheduled a hearing in late September to nullify its registration on the grounds that by law it cannot use “Russian” in its name. In addition, ORChD director Stanislav Dmitrievsky was charged on September 2 with inciting ethnic and religious animosity by publishing commentaries by Aslan Maskhadov and Akhmed Zakaev in the group’s newspaper more than a year and a half ago (see Chechnya Weekly, January 26, February 9, March 23). As Myers notes, the U.S. State Department, through the National Endowment for Democracy, has given the ORChD $170,000 since 2001—”money that was not supposed to be taxed under a 1992 agreement between the United States and Russia, but is now part of the tax evasion case.” On September 9, leaflets appeared on the walls of the apartment building where Dmitrievsky lives, threatening him and another ORChD staffer, Oksana Chelysheva, by name. Similar leaflets were distributed in March (see Chechnya Weekly, March 23).
–CLOSURE OF KAVKAZCENTER IN LITHUANIA UPHELD
Lithuania ‘s Constitutional Court ruled on September 19 that the country’s special services acted legally in closing down the activity of the Chechen separatist Kavkazcenter website on Lithuanian territory, Interfax reported. The court declared the State Security Department acted lawfully when it ordered the website shut down last year after its operator posted a message purportedly from Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev claiming responsibility for the Beslan school hostage seizure. The court declared that the closure of the website had not violated Lithuania ‘s constitution nor its law on informing society. Lithuanian authorities shut down Kavkazcenter in 2003 but the website resumed activity in November 2004 after a Vilnius court overruled the closure order. The latest decision clears the way for a lower court to rule in favor of the government’s decision to close the site, the Associated Press reported on September 19.
–ALKHANOV MEETS ASSAD
A delegation of pro-Moscow Chechen officials led by President Alu Alkhanov met with top officials in Syria and Jordan last week. On September 18, Syrian Bashar al-Assad received Alkhanov, who delivered a letter from President Vladimir Putin concerning Russian-Syrian relations as well as “recent developments in the region,” Syria ‘s SANA news agency reported. On September 20, SANA quoted Alkhanov as saying that his talks with the Syrian leader had been positive, constructive, and fruitful, and that his visit to Syria had “opened new horizons for economic, cultural, scientific and humanitarian cooperation.” The Chechen delegation left Syria for Jordan , where Alkhanov met with Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran and passed on a letter from President Putin to King Abdallah. Alkhanov also held talks with Jordan’s minister of religious endowments (Awqaf), Islamic affairs, and holy places Abd-al-Salam al-Abbadi, during which Alkhanov said that “extremists’ actions have nothing to do with Islam” and that the situation in Chechnya is “stable” and that the “changes for the better” there are “irreversible.” Alkhanov also invited a group of Muslim clerics to visit Chechnya “to preach tolerant Islam,” saying that “the Chechen government will be grateful for this kind of assistance,” Itar-Tass reported on September 21.
–EX-CHAMP TRAVELS TO GUDERMES
Mike Tyson hosted a boxing tournament in Gudermes on September 15. According to the Associate Press, Tyson traveled to the eastern Chechen city as a guest of honor at the all-Russian tournament, held in memory of assassinated Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, and was accompanied by Kadyrov’s son, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. The news agency reported that the hall was filled to capacity with spectators—mainly men—who burst into applause and cheers and asked for Tyson’s autograph. “I always watched the situation in Chechnya on television, but it is a much more difficult occasion with you today,” Tyson said. He told the crowd that when he boxed, it wasn’t for himself but for all Muslims in the world, including Chechens, whom he considers to be his brothers. Tyson converted to Islam during his time in prison on a 1992 rape conviction.