16 March 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
“This statement of evidence was produced and published by foreign media acting in the role of a foreign agent, and/or by a legal person acting in the role of a foreign agent.”
On 24th March I will challenge this phrase and everything relating to it in Khoroshevsky court.
On 10th March, something happened which was unusual for modern Russia – the court did not increase, but actually reduced the pre-trial restrictions imposed on Zarifa Sautiyeva, prosecuted, no doubt, for political reasons. But today everything is back to normal: she has been taken back into custody.
At the circuit session of Kislovodsk city court, held in the city of Yessentuki since November, there is slow progress at the two weekly sessions for the trials of the alleged organisers of protest actions and clashes with the police in Ingushetia. The protests took place two years ago in connection with the dispute over the demarcation of the borders between Ingushetia and Chechnya. The defendants are people who did not take part in the clashes themselves, but, on the contrary, urged young people not to come into direct contact with the security forces during these mass rallies. It is important to note that some of the most respected people of Ingushetia are accused, two of them are members of the Council of Elders of Ingushetia, the traditional and most authoritative organisation of civil society in the republic. As mentioned above, there is also a woman in the dock. Zarifa Sautiyeva is the deputy director of the Memorial Centre for Victims of Repression in Nazran.
Lawyers have advocated a change in the conditions of detention for the Elders and for Zarifa, as these defendants have serious health problems. At the time, the Elders said, “We might die here, but the main thing is to let Zarifa go.” Perhaps the drama of this situation does not require further explanation because of the honorary status of Zarifa, her health and the special respect for women in the Caucasus.
This trial in itself presents a challenge to civil society. We can say that this experiment is being tested out on the “weak.” Ingush civil society has been totally crippled.
And 10th March saw the court’s unexpected decision to change Zarifa’s detention to house arrest. There was applause in the courtroom, with tears from both the participants in the trial and observers.
Naturally, the prosecutor’s office appealed the decision. And today at 10 a.m. a session of the Stavropol Regional Court was held via video conferencing. It was brief. As a result, Zarifa was again taken into custody. The convoy was already waiting for her there with handcuffs.
In response, all the defendants went on hunger strike and refused to take further part in the trial. In my opinion, this is not just the “Ingush case”, it is the “North Caucasus case.” It has clearly been demonstrated to civil society in the other North Caucasus republics: Here’s what we do and we can do it to you too.
P. S. What does the FSB have to do with it? Work it out for yourself.
Translated by Graham Jones