Spain Agrees to Extradite Former Rebel Commander

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 48

Spain on December 13 agreed to extradite a Chechen wanted on terrorism charges, Murad Gasayev, to Russia in connection with the June 2004 attack on government buildings in Ingushetia. According to the Associated Press, Gasayev was arrested by police in an apartment in the eastern port city of Valencia in December 2006, a year after he had fled to Spain. The news agency quoted an anonymous Spanish Justice Ministry official as saying that Gasayev was wanted on charges of belonging to an armed group and committing terrorist acts, including murder, and that the extradition decision cannot be appealed.

Amnesty International, which called on Spain not to extradite Gasayev because he risks being tortured if handed over to Russia, reported that while the Russian authorities want him on suspicion of involvement in the June 2004 attack in Ingushetia, Gasayev claimed he was detained in Ingushetia in August 2004 by five masked law enforcement officials, who took him to the central office of the Federal Security Service in Ingushetia, where he was tortured and questioned about the attack. He was not charged, and after three days of torture he was taken in a van and released in farmland outside the city.

Amnesty International noted that according to the Memorial human rights group, some suspected of involvement in the June 2004 attack who were investigated by the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office directorate in the Southern Federal District were tortured and denied a fair trial. Amnesty International said it “interviewed several people whose statements support these findings.”

According to Amnesty International, Gasayev fled to Spain in 2005 and claimed asylum but his claim was rejected on the basis of confidential information provided by the Spanish authorities that neither he nor his lawyer were ever given access to.

Separately, former Chechen rebel field commander Islam Dzhanibekov was found murdered in Istanbul, Turkey, on December 9. reported on December 11 that three 7.62mm shell casings were found at the scene of the crime and that investigators believe he was shot with a pistol equipped with a silencer. The website also cited the Turkish newspaper Sabah, which quoted Turkish police sources as saying that the bullets indicated the Russian special services may have been involved in the murder. According to Sabah, the murder weapon may have been an MSP Groza silent pistol, which has been used by Russian spetsnaz and other special services personnel for assassinations since the 1970s. compared Dzhanibekov’s murder to the February 2004 murder of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Doha, Qatar, by two Russians who were apparently officers of the GRU [the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate]. They were arrested by the Qatari authorities but eventually returned to Russia after Vladimir Putin personally interceded on their behalf with the Emir of Qatar, the website reported.

Kavkazky Uzel on December 12 quoted an anonymous Chechen security official as denying Russian involvement in Dzhanibekov’s murder and saying that the murder could have been the result of a dispute within the Chechen rebel ranks over financing. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Dzhanibekov was originally a messenger for Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basayev and then recruited young Chechens to train in camps set up by the Saudi-born Chechen rebel field commander in Chechnya’s Vedeno district. After funding terrorist attacks in the towns of Mineralnye Vody and Yessentuki in 2001, Dzhanibekov was put on the federal wanted list and fled to Turkey.