Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 40

Russian media have been reporting over the past week that large-scale security operations are continuing in Kabardino-Balkaria and elsewhere in the North Caucasus following the October 13 rebel attacks in Nalchik. Gazeta reported on October 26 that Ramazan Tembotov, a local legislator from the village of Khasnya in Nalchik’s suburbs and a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, was arrested without explanation on October 23 and taken to the headquarters of RUBOP, the anti-organized crime directorate, in Nalchik. “People in masks came flying in, they [treated me] like a criminal, with obscene language. It is a disgrace for me—after all, the treatment of a deputy is special, like [the treatment of] an attorney; everyone knows me in the village,” Tembotov told the newspaper. “I, unlike others, was not beaten: they lead me around the rooms, the cellars, and showed what they were doing to other detainees: they were torturing people like the Gestapo. No lawyers, no interrogations—simply beating to death, until they confessed or pointed to others.” Tembotov said that the police personnel displayed particular animosity toward anything connected to Islam. He was released on October 24, the day after his detention, and told Gazeta that he thought the only thing that saved him was a telephone call he had managed to make to an acquaintance who works for the Federal Security Service.

According to Gazeta, at least 2,000 people have been arrested in Kabardino-Balkaria since the October 13 raids (at least that is the number of complaints which mothers have registered with the republican prosecutor’s office concerning the detention of their sons). Ramazan Tembotov told the newspaper that those arrested are on lists that include “Wahhabis,” people who simply attended mosques and others who were previously detained for various reasons.

Also among those arrested, Gazeta reported, are “Islamic refuseniks.” According to the newspaper, some 1,000 Muslims from Kabardino-Balkaria this year appealed to President Vladimir Putin to allow them to emigrate, and 400 Muslims from the republic issued an appeal to the international community in September accusing the republic’s enforcement organs of repression and asking for political asylum in any country of the world. Tembotov said that around 600 of these “refuseniks,” along with local human rights activists, are among those who have been arrested since October 13.

Ramazan Tembotov said he has been unable to locate fellow Khasnya villagers who were also detained on October 23: Rasul Nogerov, Zeitun Sultanov, Zeitun Gaev, Tstsras Etezov, Rasul Khalaikhanov and Anatoly Gazhonov. Another Khasnya resident who was arrested is Rasul Kudaev, who spent nearly one year in the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, after being captured by U.S.-backed coalition forces in Afghanistan. In February 2004, Kudaev and six other Russians detained at Guantanamo were returned to Russia, where they were subsequently set free by Russian authorities who said there was insufficient proof that they had been involved in the criminal activities of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. After the ex-Guantanamo detainees were freed, Kudaev’s mother, Fatima Tekaeva, threatened to sue the U.S. government for the alleged mistreatment of her son while under U.S. detention, which, she claims, ruined Kudaev’s health.

As Kommersant reported on October 24, Kudaev is suspected of being one of seven armed rebels who attacked a traffic police post at the entrance of Khasnya on October 13. The attackers fired on the post and at the windows of a nearby hospital. No one was hurt in the attack. However, Ramazan Tembotov, who knows Kudaev and his family well, told Gazeta he is sure Kudaev was not involved. Gazeta reported that Kudaev’s current exact location is unknown and the authorities have not allowed his family to send him medicine.

According to a search warrant signed by Y.A. Savrulin, an investigator with Southern Federal District branch of the federal Prosecutor General’s Office, Kudaev’s home was searched on the basis of an anonymous telephone tip claiming that he had been involved in the September 13 attack and was in possession of weapons and ammunition, Kavkazky Uzel reported on October 25. While no weapons were found in his house and the prosecutor’s office had not sanctioned his arrest, Kudaev was nonetheless taken into custody, the website reported. On October 24, Orkhan Dzhemal of the weekly Versia said in a statement issued to Kavkazky Uzel that it was impossible Rasul Kudaev was involved in the October 13 attacks, inasmuch as he has been disabled since his imprisonment in Guantanamo and moves around with difficulty. Geidar Dzhemal, head of the Islamic Committee of Russia, claimed in an interview with Itar-Tass on October 24 that Kudaev’s “confession” was beaten out of him. “If you have been in the hands of the Kabardino-Balkaria police, you will confess to anything,” Dzhemal said. “It is a question of how intensively they work on you. They simply know how to beat someone and how to beat him severely. There anyone pleads guilty to charges and then retracts testimony in court. This doesn’t mean anything. He [Kudaev] is a handicapped person who can only move inside his home. He could not have participated in any kind of an attack. He is not physically able to do this. His liver is in a bad state.”

Memorial said in a statement that police in Kabardino-Balkaria have been carrying out large-scale “prophylactic activities” accompanied by numerous human rights violations, including illegal arrests, beatings and torture, newsru.com reported on October 26. According to the human rights group, “the fight against Wahhabism has turned into the persecution of Muslims generally. The police in Kabardino-Balkaria has become an odious institution not only for extremists, not only for Muslims, but for the bulk of the population; everyone has had enough.”

Kavkazky Uzel on October 26 quoted from an appeal written by several local journalists and activists in Kabardino-Balkaria to the republic’s authorities. “What took place on October 13 was a planned action that had the aim of destabilizing the situation in the republic, to impede positive changes that have taken place, and to cause trouble and splits in Kabardino-Balkarian society,” the appeal read. “In order to achieve their goals, destructive forces used the contradictions in the republic’s Muslim milieu that have appeared in recent years. We believe that what happened was largely provoked by the insufficiently considered actions of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria Interior Ministry in the fight against so-called radical Islam. The far-from-always justified repression against Muslims has added dozens of young people to the ranks of the active and aggressive Wahhabis. In condemning the armed attack on the republic’s power structures, in conveying our sympathies to the families of the policemen who were killed, we at the same time believe that in order to relax the atmosphere, in order not to further heat up the situation and deepen the split in the Muslim community, it would be the right decision to return the bodies of the [rebel] fighters to their relatives for burial. In addition, information has leaked to the press that those detained on suspicion of having participated in the attack on the city are being subjected to savage torture. We believe that by acting in such a way, the law enforcement organs are preparing the ground for future excesses. We live in a civilized world and should act according to the laws by which international civilized society lives.”

In the wake of the October 13 violence in Nalchik, the anti-Muslim crackdown has apparently spread to the heretofore relatively stable North Caucasian republic of Adygeya. Newsru.com reported on October 26 that RUBOP, the anti-organized crime directorate, of Adygeya’s Interior Ministry detained six Muslims leaving the cathedral mosque in Maikop, Adygeya’s capital, after evening prayers during an operation to neutralize the “extremist underground in the republic. Among those detained were the cathedral mosque’s imam, Ruslan Khakirov, and his deputy, Asker Bogus. Both men belong to the official Spiritual Board of Muslims of Adygeya and Krasnodar Krai. Also detained was a member of the republic’s official Sambo team.

According to ingushetiya.ru, the six detainees were held overnight at the RUBOP headquarters, where they were tortured into confessing that they had participated in extremist activities. According to the website, they were stripped naked for their interrogations and accussed of observing Islamic norms of hygiene and wearing beards. The following day, they were taken to court along with two Chechen students who had also been detained, but the judge, Ruslan Matyzhev, ordered their release, stating that there was no evidence they had violated the law. The six former detainees have had medical examinations confirming that they were beaten and are trying to complain about their detention to the republican prosecutor’s office.

Newsru.com wrote that the incident in Adygeya could not be written off as an instance of “typical” police brutality, because as “the policemen who carried out the arrest of the Muslims and the interrogations with torture openly admitted that they were carrying out this action on direct orders from above ‘in connection with events in Nalchik.'”