One more leader of the Ingush protests is a political prisoner, Memorial says

02.03.2020

Bagaudin Khautiev has been charged with organising violence against public officials and participating in an extremist group. We believe Khautiev tried to prevent clashes between protesters and riot police and that no extremist group existed.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre, in line with international guidelines defining the term, considers Bagaudin Khautiev a political prisoner. We believe his prosecution is intended to force an end to public criticism of the authorities and Khautiev’s prosecution has been exclusively in response to his non-violent realisation of the freedom of peaceful assembly. The Memorial Human Rights Centre urges the immediate release of Bagaudin Khautiev.

  • Context

In September 2018 Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Yevkurov signed an agreement ‘On establishing the border between the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic.’ The agreement had been prepared in secret and the decision to sign it had been taken without public discussion. A large number of residents of Ingushetia believed the agreement unjust and a protest movement appeared in the republic. Bagaudin Khautiev, head of the Council of Youth Organisations of Ingushetia and a member of the Ingush Committee of National Unity, became one of the movement’s leaders.

On 26 March 2019 in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, a twenty-thousand-strong rally was held demanding the resignation of the head of the republic, the parliament, and the government, and the holding of free and fair elections. The authorities had agreed to permit the rally for one day, but some of the participants declared the rally would continue in the coming days. As dawn broke on 27 March a few hundred people still remained on the square. These people presented no danger to public order and were not hindering transport, pedestrians or the work of any organisations.

According to international standards of freedom of peaceful assembly, as set out in UN documents and in the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, the state should not break up manifestations if the actions of participants present no danger to the public, even if prior permission had not been given for the event to be held.

Nonetheless, the National Guard officers sent to Ingushetia from other Russian regions tried to disperse those gathered and, moreover, according to the Investigative Committee, ten officers received physical injuries.

After the clashes in Magas a criminal investigation was begun and dozens of rally participants were arrested on charges of using violence against law enforcement officers. Seven leaders of the protest — Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Barakh Chemurziev, Akhmed Pogorov, Ismail Nalgiev, and Zarifa Sautieva — were charged with organising this alleged violence. The Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognised all seven as political prisoners.

  • The Charges

Bagaudin Khautiev was arrested on 3 April 2019 on suspicion of having committed an offence under Part 2 of Article 318, of the Russian Criminal Code (use of force, dangerous to life or health, against a public official). He was remanded in custody in a pre-trial detention centre in Nalchik.

On 11 April 2019 the department for investigating especially important cases of the Investigative Committee for the North Caucasus Federal District charged Khautiev with an offence under this Article.

On 27 December 2019 a new criminal investigation was begun concerning eight leaders of the Ingush protest movement with regard to the creation of an extremist group and participating in it. In January 2020 charges were laid against Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov for creating an extremist group (Part One of Article 282.1, of the Russian Criminal Code), while Barakh Chemurziev, Akhmed Pogorov, Bagaudin Khautiev, Ismail Nalgiev, and Zarifa Sautieva were charged with taking part in an extremist group (Part Two of Article 282.1, of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 16 January 2020 Bagaudin Khautiev was charged with organising violence, dangerous to the life and health of public officials (Part Three of Article 33, in conjunction with Part Two of Article 318, of the Russian Criminal Code) while the charges of using violence were dropped.

  • Why Memorial considers Khautiev a political prisoner

There was no organisation of violence

Having studied the documents of the criminal case and the circumstances in question we have concluded that Bagaudin Khautiev, along with the seven other leaders of the Ingush protests, did not organise violence against law enforcement officers at the rally in Magas on 27 March 2019.

There is no evidence Khautiev intended to cause injury to the health of National Guard officers or organised or led violence against them. On the contrary, judging by video recordings of the events and the evidence of witnesses, the protest leaders urged those gathered to disperse and not to allow any clashes with law enforcement officers.

According to the testimony of Magomed Gaghiev, an aide and advisor to the head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov who was put in charge of overseeing the rally, Bagaudin Khautiev ‘spoke through a loudspeaker and sought to convince people to leave the square.’

‘After his speech, people gradually began to disperse,’ Gaghiev testified. ‘Soon after lunch, when people blocked the main road, I went there on the orders of the head of the republic and again spoke to Khautiev. The crowd was out of control and I asked Khautiev to calm people down and get them away. Khautiev agreed and I am certain that thanks to his efforts the crowd dispersed.’

There was no extremist group

The bringing of charges, as set out in the official decision opening the criminal case under Part Two of Article 282.1, of the Russian Criminal Code against eight leaders of the Ingush protests, including Bagaudin Khautiev, criminalises lawful public activity. The ordinary interactions of people, straightforward self-organisation and collaboration of citizens, is designated as the allocation of roles as part of an ‘extremist group.’ Individuals identified among the protesters as influencing public opinion have been declared ‘a group of persons organised in order to prepare or commit crimes of an extremist nature.’

Calls for the peaceful realisation of the right to freedom of assembly (Article 31 of the Russian Constitution), the power of the people (Article 2 of the Russian Constitution) and the participation of citizens in public administration (Article 32 of the Russian Constitution), must not be considered to be calls for the commission of illegal acts.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre believes that the main aims of those who created the ‘Ingush case’ have been to decapitate the protest movement in the republic and to ‘teach a lesson’ to other Russian regions. The prosecution of the leaders of the Ingush opposition for alleged criminal offences is the latest step seeking to suppress lawful public activism and the rights and freedoms, not only of residents of Ingushetia, but of all Russian citizens.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that the Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

For more information about the views of Memorial on this case, visit our website.

  • How to help

You can support all political prisoners in Russia by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected]

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