Barakhoev, Malsagov, Nalgiev, Uzhakhov and Chemurziev were not involved in ‘organising acts of violence.’ On the contrary, they sought to prevent clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers.
In autumn 2018 the heads of Chechnya and Ingushetia signed an agreement establishing new borders between the republics. In line with this agreement, Ingushetia handed over more than 7% of its territory to its neighbour. The authorities did not provide for any public discussion of this issue. In Ingushetia a large civil society movement arose calling for the reversal of this decision and for the resignation of the head of the republic, Yunus-bek Yevkurov.
On 26 March 2019 a 20,000-strong rally took place in Magas, capital of Ingushetia, demanding the resignation of the head, parliament and government of the republic, and for free elections. The authorities permitted the rally to be held on one day only, but some participants declared that it should be staged permanently. By early morning on 27 March a few hundred people remained in the square. They did not present any danger to public order and were not hindering traffic or people going to and from work. When the time of the permitted rally ended, there were no more speeches. Although there was no reason to forcefully disperse the demonstrators, early in the morning officers from the Federal National Guard Troops Service [Rosgvardiya], sent from other regions, sought to expel the people from the square. Rally participants resisted and 10 law enforcement officers were injured to varying degrees.
The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal investigation and about thirty Ingush activists were arrested. The rally organisers -Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Malsag Uzhakhov and Barakh Chemurziev, who are leaders of Ingush civil society associations — were charged under Article 33, Section 3, and Article 318, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (Organising acts of violence dangerous to the life or health of public officials with regard to the fulfilment of their official duties, punishable by up to 10 years’ deprivation of liberty).
Investigators cite three ‘facts’ demonstrating the guilt of the ‘organisers of the crime’:
1) About 400 protesters remained at the location of the rally and declared that they would not disperse until their demands had been met as a result of a decision by Barakhoev, Malsagov, Nalgiev, Uzhakhov and Chemurziev.
2) The five leaders ‘issued calls to national unity’ and ‘took steps to unite’ the people present on the square, morally supporting them, saying that soon new participants in the rally would arrive. They also called on the protesters to stand firm if the law enforcement officers tried to break up the rally.
3) Barakhoev, speaking at the rally on 27 March to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ingushetia, Dmitry Kava, and other representatives of law enforcement agencies, stated that resistance by force to representatives of authority was possible.
Under Russian criminal law, an offence is only committed if the organiser of a crime acts with direct intention. Not one of the above circumstances cited by the investigators shows the opposition leaders had any such intention, i.e. that they wished for and incited violence.
There is no evidence that they intended to cause harm to the health of public officials, sought to bring that about, organised or led it.
Judging by videos of the events and the evidence of witnesses, the Ingush leaders urged the protesters to depart and not to allow clashes with law enforcement officers.
Thus on one video made on the morning of 27 March, the elder Akhmed Barakhoev, standing next to others who have also been charged, is seen telling protesters: «So that no harm will be done to us. So that no blood will be spilled. These lads, who are opposing us — they also have fathers and mothers waiting for them at home. These are people who were ordered to come here. We don’t need either their blood or our blood to be spilled. We did not come here to spill blood or to fight. We have talked with the authorities and they promised they will permit another rally. We have submitted the required notification… I shall go forwards, and you will all follow me. Let us remember God Almighty and we shall all leave here. We shall leave here unbroken!»
Members a study mission by human rights organisations’ (including Memorial Human Rights Centre) that worked at the scene of events in April 2019 concluded: «We have the impression that the decision to use force was taken at a level higher than the head of the Republic of Ingushetia. A minimal knowledge of local specifics would have been enough to prevent law enforcement officers from other regions being sent out against a crowd that included elderly men — this caused aggression among young people and clashes occurred.»
Only the competent and responsible behaviour by officers from a local battalion of traffic police made up of residents of Ingushetia enabled the situation to be defused. These officers saved RosGvardiya officers who had been knocked over and injured, pulling them away from the square, separating other RosGvardiya officers from the crowd, and thereby stopping clashes. Jointly with opposition leader Akhmed Barakhoev, they then persuaded young people to voluntarily leave the square.»
On the basis of a review of the documents gathered in the criminal case and of the circumstances of the event, we conclude the opposition leaders did not organise acts of violence and there is no basis for the charges brought against them.
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Malsag Uzhakhov and Barakh Chemurziev to be political prisoners and calls for their immediate release.
We demand that officials guilty of the unlawful prosecution of the Ingush opposition leaders be brought to justice.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.
More information about the views of Memorial on this case are available on our website.
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