The following is a statement from Human Rights Centre Memorial that Pax Christi International has endorsed in support of the Ingush civil protest leaders as their trial for “creating an extremist association” or participating in it nears a verdict. The original Russian text is here. Photo: Vladimir Varfolomeev, protest rally in Ingushetia, Russia via Flickr (CC BY NC ND 2.0)
On the upcoming verdict in the Ingush case
In Essentuki, the trial against leaders of the Ingush civil protest comes to an end. The court has retired to reach a verdict.
Who is on trial?
Seven activists of civil society, who are highly estimated and have authority within the community in Ingushetia.
Two are elder people. Malsag Uzhakov is president of the Teyp Council of the Ingush people, Akhmed Barakhoev is member of that Council. Zarifa Sautiyeva is the former vice-director of the republican “Memorial complex for victims of repressions”; her blog was very popular in the republic. Musa Malsagov is president of the Ingush branch of the “Russian Red Cross”. Ismail Nalgiyev is head of the organization “Choice of Ingushetia”, that monitors elections. Bagautdin Khatuyev is head of the Council of Youth Organisations of Ingushetia. Barakh Chemurziyev is president of the non-governmental movement “Pillars of Ingushetia”.
Five of them joined the Ingush Committee of National Unity, founded during the wave of protests in the Republic during Autumn 2018. Malsagov became its president.
Why are they tried?
Three of them are accused of creating an extremist association, the rest of participating in it. All seven are accused of organizing violence that threatened the life and health of the people who represent the authorities during a meeting of March, 27th 2019.
The accusations are more than absurd.
The extremist association never existed. In Spring 2018, when Uzhakov, Barakhoyev and Malsagov founded – according to the accusation – their ‘association’, they didn’t even know each other. The seven people mentioned here only met each other in the course of that Spring, when a huge wave of peaceful protest arose in Ingushetia against the Agreement on the borders with neighbour Chechnya was enforced upon the republic. People were mainly angry as the authorities were not prepared to discuss this highly important question on the territory of the republic with the people, as it lied to the citizens and as it falsified the votes in parliament.
The accused did not organize the protest, they could only express the mood of the people, and direct their actions towards peaceful and legitimate forms. Small Ingushetia showed Russia an example of how massive non-violent protest actions can and have to be held: without any threats for public order and without dispersion of the manifestations.
The accusation states that the people on trial, while directing the protest were supposedly preparing ‘crimes of extremist character’.
In the files there is not one piece of evidence of the preparation by one of the defendants of whatsoever crime. The investigators, and later the prosecutor bring as forms and methods of actions of the ‘extremist association’, and of the planning and preparation of the mass activities the spreading through mass media and social media. That means that informing citizens of their rights, guaranteed in the Russian Constitution and in international treaties, is included in the accusing conclusion as a criminal act!
The invitation by the Teyp Council of the Ingush People for the representatives of the Republican Parliament to account for its work to the voters at the meeting of the Muftiate (the traditional representative body of the local Muslims and their heads, the Muftis – tr.) was called ‘obstruction of the lawful function of the representatives of power’ and ‘unlawful pressure’ on them. A part of the parliamentarians thought it correct to accept this invitation, others did not want to, with the only consequence that a large part of the Ingush people morally disapproved of their choice.
In what sense is this extremism? Clearly, for the accusing side any control by voters on the work of parliamentarians is a crime, just as any moral judgment of their actions.
The only example of a crime of extremist character that is formulated in the accusation, are the events of March, 27th 2019, when in the capital of Ingushetia Magas participants in the protests collided with fighters of the Rosguards, sent their by the Russian central authorities.
But whose fault is it, that this happened? Why did they send rosguards to the people, that was protesting peacefully and calmly, without slogans and speeches, on the main square? Why did they send rosguards just at the moment of prayer? Wasn’t this a deliberate provocation?
Nor the investigators, nor the court were prepared to look for answers to these questions.
Anyhow, none of the defendants carries any responsibility for the collision (of March, 27th – note). On the contrary, they tried by all means to stop the violence on the square. They convinced the heated youth to stop resisting and the police and other enforcement troops to refrain from dragging young people away, asked them to give time to carry people from the square. It was proved during the court case. Video material showed this convincingly and was confirmed by practically all witnesses (from the defendant and the accusing sides) and even by the rosguards, who were present as victims.
It became clear that some of the defendants were not even there at the begin of the collision, but were brought their by the authorities in the hope that they could stop the violence.
And that’s what happened: the defendants succeeded in that: they were able to let the protesters leave the square!
But in the following stage of rising repression against the protesters, these people were arrested and declared to be extremists instead of thanked.
There are no doubts about the political intend of the accusations.
The specificity of this criminal case is that there are no falsifications in the evidence to prove their guilt. There is simply not one piece of evidence in the file! Instead the accusing side just tries to present legal, public civil actions as criminal.
That’s why this trial is so extremely important and dangerous for the future of our country.
Only when the defendants will be acquitted, the Russian society can have hope that in the future peaceful civil and political, oppositional actions are possible.
If not, this hope will be crossed out. Russia already walked that road, which inevitably leads to a new catastrophe.
24 November 2021
Human Rights Centre Memorial *
*The organisation s forced by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to be registered as a ‘nonprofit organisation that functions as a foreign agent’.