Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 46

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) sent an open letter on December 5 to Dagestan’s prosecutor, Rashidhan Magomedov, expressing concern about the arrest of human rights activist Osma Boliev. According to the Vienna-based human rights group, Boliev is a well-known human rights defender in the North Caucasus and a respected figure in Khasavyurt, whose “Romashka” NGO filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the October 2004 kidnapping of another Khasavyurt resident named Israilov.

The IHF reported that Boliev was detained on November 15 by traffic police in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt, who claimed that his car looked like one reported stolen. He was then handed over to an OMON special police unit, who in turn delivered him to the city police station. According to the IHF, Boliev’s relatives learned the following day through informal channels that he was being held by the Khasavyurt police, and on November 17 he was able to meet with Akhmed Umaev, a lawyer. Umaev claims that a grenade was planted in Boliev’s coat pocket on November 16, the day after his arrest, after which a new criminal case was opened against him under the statute in Russia’s Criminal Code concerning illegal possession of weapons. Boliev was then transferred to the N5/3 pre-trial detention center in Khasavyurt, and according to the IHF, the “official mass media” soon claimed he had been detained as “an insurgent.”

The IHF press release quoted a letter that Boliev wrote from prison to fellow human rights activists. It read: “Dear colleagues! I am grateful to you all for your help at this tough moment in my personal and professional life. You all know what risks human rights defenders in Russia, and especially in the North Caucasus, take. To get rid of them, the authorities often charge them with crimes like membership in illegal armed formations and illegal possession of weapons. In my case, after they had tortured me for a long time, the authorities planted a grenade in my coat pocket. This happened the morning after my detention—that is, on 16 November. I did not sign any confession and completely denied any wrongdoing. However, there are inmates in this prison, who are ready to sign statements incriminating anybody—me in particular.”

The IHF wrote that it is “seriously concerned” about Boliev’s safety and is convinced that the case against him is fabricated. It asked Dagestani Prosecutor Rashidhan Magomedov to use his authority to secure Boliev’s immediate release and “to initiate a criminal investigation into the actions of the local police in this appalling case.” Copies of the letter to the Dagestani prosecutor, which was signed by IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes, were sent to federal Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and presidential human rights commission chairwoman Ella Pamfilova.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on December 5 that a small explosive device had detonated the previous evening at the cantonment of the 136th Motorized-Rifle Brigade in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk. The blast broke windows in one building but did not cause injuries. RIA Novosti reported on December 6 that police in Buinaksk had discovered an arms cache at a dacha in the Yuzhny micro-district. According to the Dagestani Interior Ministry, among the items in the cache were ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, metal shards, a large quantity of cartridges and “extremist” literature. The ministry had reported earlier that police discovered a freshly abandoned “winter base” for rebel fighters near the village of Manasaul on the outskirts of Buinaksk. Kavkazky Uzel on December 5 quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Abdulmanap Musaev as saying that members of the rebel group headed by the late Buinaksk “emir” Abdula Magomedov had planned to spend the winter at the base in preparation for attacks in the spring and that weapons belonging to the group, including automatic grenade launchers, had been discovered hidden at Buinaksk’s Jewish cemetery.

Abdula Magomedov was seriously wounded in a shootout with security forces on November 21 and died of his wounds in Buinaksk’s military hospital on November 24. Another member of his group was killed in the battle while two others, one of whom was wounded, managed to escape. According to the Dagestani Interior Ministry, a total of four members of Magomedov’s group have been killed and 30 captured, while ten remain at large.