Dagestani Journalist Murdered, Opposition Newspaper Targeted

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 33

Telman Alishaev

Telman Alishaev, a journalist with the TV-Chirkei Islamic television channel in Dagestan, died on September 3, a day after he was shot near his home in the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. The Moscow Times reported on September 4 quoted Dagestani Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky as saying that Alishaev was shot by two men as he sat in his car. According to another Dagestani Interior Ministry official, Shamil Guseinov, Alishaev hosted a religious-themed program and had produced documentaries and written extensively about “Wahhabism.”

Rossiiskaya Gazeta on September 2 quoted an unnamed law-enforcement source as saying that Alishaev had co-produced a documentary called “Ordinary Wahhabism” and was an opponent of “Wahhabism” in Dagestan. Kavkazky Uzel reported on September 3 that in addition to hosting a program on the republic’s Islamic TV channel, Alishaev was an Islamic preacher who had been one of the initiators of a petition calling for teaching Dagestani boys and girls separately and for optional classes on Islam in the republic’s schools.

A major with the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime unit (UBOP), Arsen Zakaryev, was shot to death in Makhachkala on September 2 as he was leaving his home for work. Kavkazky Uzel reported on September 3 reported that investigators believe “Wahhabis” may have been behind the murder of both Zakaryev and Alishaev. On September 4, Kavkazky Uzel reported that Dagestan’s law-enforcement agencies claim to have information indicating that Vadim Butdaev, the brother of Gulnara Rustamova, the leader of the movement Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights, perpetrated both murders. A law-enforcement source said that witnesses to both murders identified Budtaev as the killer from photographs and that, according to witnesses, a person resembling Budtaev said after killing Major Zakaryev, “Tell them Vadim did this.” Kavkazky Uzel reported that someone named Rustam Umalatov is suspected of also being involved in the murders.

Vadim Butdaev is wanted by the authorities for alleged involvement in attacks on law-enforcement personnel. However, the Memorial human rights group reported earlier this year that Butdaev went into hiding after the authorities began arresting friends of his and forcing them to confess to “terrorist” activities. According to Memorial, pressure on Butdaev and threats against Rustamova began after the Mother of Dagestan group organized pickets to protect and win the release of people abducted by Dagestani law-enforcement authorities (North Caucasus Weekly, March 27).

Meanwhile, investigators from the Dagestanti prosecutor’s office and Interior Ministry officers searched the homes of six journalists with the opposition weekly Chernovik (Rough Draft) in Makhachkala on August 26. The paper’s editor-in-chief Nadira Isayeva told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the raiders were looking for evidence of “extremism” and, without presenting valid search warrants, seized one computer, two books, several computer disks, and four electronic files containing articles and book excerpts about the separatist movement in Dagestan. Kommersant reported that among the seized materials was a broadcast on Ekho Moskvy radio by political commentator Yulia Latynina.

According to Kommersant, on August 27, a day after the searches, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman with the Investigative Committee of Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, said in a statement that “it has been determined that the authors of [Chernovik’s] articles may have published them in co-authorship or on the order of persons sought for having committed crimes of an extremist nature.” Isayeva told the CPJ that on the same day, August 27, she got a notice signed by Maksim Mirzabalayev, an investigator with the Investigative Committee in the Dagestani Prosecutor’s Office, informing her that she has been ordered to undergo a psychological analysis.

“We are disturbed by the persistent persecution of Nadira Isayeva and the unsanctioned searches of Chernovik’s journalists,” CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said in an August 28 press release. “Extremism has become a term in Russian law that authorities wield liberally against critical reporters and non-mainstream publications. We call on Dagestan’s prosecutors to scrap the charges against Isayeva, return all confiscated materials and equipment, and allow Chernovik to work without fear of reprisal.”