Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 28

After hearing Dushuev, Judge Workman called the situation “extraordinary” and “dramatic.” He noted that in the text presented by the Russian authorities, the name of the witness (who was described as Zakaev’s “bodyguard”) was blacked out. Workman ordered the Russian authorities to produce the full text of Dushuev’s testimony, and said that they must make clear just who removed his name and for what purpose. The British government attorney representing the Russian authorities cited a December 17 letter from the Russian procuracy that requested permission to omit several witnesses’ names for the sake of their personal safety. The judge asked where Dushuev was on that day; after a break the attorney answered that Dushuev had been in prison from December 1 to January 29.

Zakaev’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, stated, “Let us forget for a second that they tortured him…They had him appear on a television broadcast, but now they are telling us that his name had to be concealed for the sake of his safety. This reminds me of the darkest show trials of the Stalin era.” [Note: Fitzgerald’s words have been back-translated by Chechnya Weekly from the Russian version.] Fitzgerald asked the court to demand an explanation of the fates of all the other witnesses whose names had been concealed: “Are they still even living?” In light of the July 24 events, he also asked whether the Russian procuracy would be ready to drop the case. The British attorney representing the procuracy said that he was not ready to answer that question.

Dushuev’s court appearance reinforced fundamental doubts even about those parts of the Russian government that have tried hardest to present a civilized face to the world. Earlier this month the same court had heard from Deputy Minister of Justice Yury Kalinin that if London should agree to extradite Zakaev, the latter could count on being treated humanely. Kalinin claimed that there are now some 4,200 Chechens in Russia’s prison system and that not one investigation had ever found any violations of their rights.

The final stage of the London court hearing is now scheduled to begin on September 8. Judge Workman ordered the plaintiffs to present by September 1 a written explanation by the Russian government that would clarify when, where and why Dushuev was held captive, how he was treated in captivity, what accusations were made against him, where and under what conditions he signed his confession, and how the filming of him was organized. The written explanations should also specify why Dushuev was released from prison and why the Russian procuracy had requested that this witness’s name be concealed when his interview had already been broadcast on television by permission of the Russian authorities.

It was not until the next day, July 25, that the Russian authorities managed to come up with a partial response to the stunning developments of July 24. Without even trying to explain the gaps and contradictions in Moscow’s previous statements, Deputy Federal Procurator Sergei Fridinsky called Dushuev’s court appearance a “provocation” and accused the witness of having been paid to change his testimony by the out-of-favor Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Aleksandr Goldfarb, head of the Berezovsky-financed Civil Liberties Foundation, immediately responded that the foundation was paying for “a significant part” of Zakaev’s legal defense, including the travel expenses of defense witnesses. Goldfarb noted that if Zakaev wins the case, the Russian procuracy will have to reimburse all those costs. “We are waiting impatiently for the time when we can present to the court for transmission to Mr. Fridinsky a detailed account,” he said. “However, the expenses which the procuracy has incurred on behalf of Russian taxpayers in the Zakaev case are not limited to this.” Goldfarb suggested that the European Court on Human Rights might order the Russian government to compensate Dushuev for the sufferings that he experienced as a Russian captive.