Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 42

Russky kurier reported on November 15 that the case against Zara Murtazalieva, the 20-year-old Chechen woman arrested in Moscow earlier this year on charges of recruiting suicide bombers to carry out attacks in the capital, was “fully fabricated and could ‘go into the textbooks’ on how to create false charges.”

Upon Murtazalieva’s arrest in March, the Moscow police, who had begun investigating her in the summer of 2003 after the terrorist act at a rock concert at the Tushino airfield outside Moscow, claimed they had found 196 grams of plastic explosive on her and charged her with illegal possession of explosives. Subsequently, however, Pavel Filipchuk, chief investigator with the Nikulino district prosecutor’s office, widened the charges against Murtazalieva, claiming she was a member of “bandit organizations” fighting federal forces in Chechnya and that she had arrived in Moscow in September 2003 after having undergone training at a suicide-bomber training camp outside of Baku, Azerbaijan.

Russky kurier quoted an official document detailing the charges against Murtazalieva and signed by Filipchuk, which claimed that after her arrival in Moscow, she met two young Russian female converts to Islam at a local mosque and had influenced them to become suicide bombers. However, Murtazalieva’s lawyer, Zezar Usmanova, told the newspaper that her client had in fact been arrested earlier – in December 2003 – during a routine document check, after which an ethnic Chechen police officer identified only as “Said” offered Murtazalieva a room in dormitory free of charge, to which he later brought the two young Russian Muslim converts. According to Usmanova, “Said” was part of an elaborate plot by law-enforcement to “cultivate” suicide bombers. Russky kurier also quoted the mother of one of the converts as saying that far from influencing her daughter to commit terrorist acts, Murtazalieva had in fact exerted a positive influence, and that her daughter had even quit using narcotics after meeting Murtazalieva. According to the newspaper, the two young women were pressured into giving evidence against Murtazalieva.

Svetlana Gannushkina, chairman of the Civil Assistance Committee, which assists refugees, told Russky kurier that the terrorist training camp on the outskirts of Baku at which Murtazalieva was allegedly trained does not exist, and that Azerbaijan’s embassy in Moscow had protested to Russia’s Foreign Ministry about the allegation. According to the newspaper, investigators eventually dropped the allegation that she was trained in such a camp, along with the claim that she had fought in the first war in Chechnya (Murtazalieva would have been 10-12 years old in 1994-96). Murtazalieva, however, still faces charges of possessing explosive materials and involving persons in terrorist-related crimes. Russky kurier suggests that the 196 grams of plastic explosives allegedly found on Murtazalieva at the time of her arrest were planted on her.

Gannushkina told the newspaper that she wrote FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev concerning the falsification of terrorism cases against Murtazalieva and other Chechens but has received no answer. Murtazalieva’s case will soon be sent to the Moscow City Court.