Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 5

A number of political parties and movements rallied yesterday in Djohar, the Chechen capital, to support the republic’s parliament, which the Supreme Sharia Court of Chechnya suspended, along with its speaker Ruslan Alikhadzhiev, last month. On January 6, the parliamentarians declared the court’s suspension action illegitimate and void. That same day, the court’s chairman, Bekkhan Khasukhanov, declared that the court had the power to enforce its decision, and would do so.

The members of the Supreme Sharia Court argued that the parliament, as an entity, violates the Koran and Sharia. For their part, the parliamentary deputies argue that the court is illegitimate, because it was set up by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Chechnya’s constitution gives parliament, not the president, the power to establish the country’s highest court (Russian agencies, January 7).

One of the big surprises in the standoff between the parliament and the Court is that the so-called “commanders’ council”–the opposition group made up of field commanders Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev and Khunkar Israpilov–has thrown its lot in with the parliament. Basaev recently said that the judges “violated the norms of the Koran and Sharia” when they voted to suspend the legislature. Basaev charged that court took this action to deflect attention from the accusations which Basaev and his colleagues filed with the court. The rebel commanders charged that Maskhadov had violated Chechnya’s constitution during his tenure. On December 24, the Supreme Sharia Court found that Maskhadov had violated laws, but judged that he should not be removed from office. Basaev recently said the commanders’ council would demand new legal proceedings against Maskhadov, but that it did not trust the current Supreme Sharia Court judges, and would thus ask Chechnya’s religious leaders to elect new court members to try Maskhadov.

Basaev’s statements in support of the parliament reportedly surprised many observers in Chechnya, given that only two weeks ago he and other opposition members came out in favor of dissolving the parliament and replacing it with a Shura–a kind of state council made up of “notables” (Russian agencies, January 6).