‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Zarema Musaeva, wife of a retired federal judge and mother of the Yangulbaev brothers active in the Chechen opposition, is a political prisoner

26 August 2022

Chechen law enforcement officers took Zarema Musaeva from Nizhny Novgorod to Grozny, where she was remanded in custody on trumped-up charges.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers Zarema Musaeva a political prisoner in accordance with international criteria. Musaeva was effectively taken hostage because her sons actively criticise the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, while her husband, federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev, refuses to condemn their activities. Musaeva’s prosecution is intended to stop her sons engaging in public activity and the charges against her are clearly fabricated.

We demand the immediate release of Zarema Musaeva and that the charges against her be objectively and fairly investigated.

Who is Zarema Musaeva and what are the charges against her?

Zarema Musaeva is the wife of federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev. Their youngest son, Ibragim Yangulbaev, was administrator of an opposition Telegram channel criticizing the Ramzan Kadyrov regime, while their elder son, Abubakar Yangulbaev, was engaged in human rights activities and worked as a lawyer for the Committee against Torture.

Most recently, the Yangulbaev family – Saidi Yangulbaev, Zarema Musaeva and their daughter – had been living in Nizhny Novgorod.

On the evening of 20 January 2022, Chechen law enforcement officers, with the support of Nizhny Novgorod police, broke into their apartment and, unable to find a pretext for taking Saidi Yangulbaev to Chechnya, since he has immunity as a federal judge, they took away his wife.

Zarema Musaeva, who is 53-years old and suffers from diabetes, was not allowed to dress or take any medicines with her. She was forced into a car and driven to Grozny where she was jailed for 15 days for the offence of ‘petty hooliganism’ on the grounds that she allegedly swore when arrested.

Subsequently, a criminal charge was laid against Musaeva for using force against a police officer (Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The Investigative Committee claimed she had assaulted a police officer when he was writing up the administrative charge sheet.

In addition, Musaeva has been charged with fraud (Article 159, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code ) in connection with a criminal investigation opened in Chechnya back in 2019. At that time, Musaeva and her husband had already been living outside the Chechen Republic for two years. Her lawyers have yet to be allowed to review the case file.

Lawyers from the Committee against Torture, who have taken on Musaeva’s case, have already filed dozens of petitions, complaints and appeals against the actions of law enforcement officials, but the Chechen and Nizhny Novgorod authorities have sabotaged the proceedings.

Immediately after Musaeva’s abduction, the European Court of Human Rights demanded that the Russian authorities ensure her safety under Rule 39. The European Union, the US State Department and Amnesty International have all called for Musaeva’s release. The head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeyev, has requested that her criminal case be transferred from Chechnya to the Investigative Committee’s division for the North Caucasus Federal District or to the Investigative Committee’s federal headquarters in Moscow.

Why do we consider Musaeva a political prisoner?

We consider the abduction and criminal prosecution of Zarema Musaeva are linked to the opposition and human rights activities of her sons Abubakar and Ibragim Yangulbaev.

Ibragim Yangulbaev was detained twice by Chechen security forces – in 2015 and in 2017. He was held in a secret prison in Grozny and tortured because he had been running an opposition Telegram channel.

His father, federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev, was forced to resign after he refused to publicly condemn and physically strike his son.

At the end of 2020, the situation of the Yangulbaev family again became more difficult. The Yangulbaev brothers were accused of being involved in running the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel. Ibragim and his younger brother Baisangur Yangulbaev left Russia, while the rest of the family left Chechnya. Family members who remained in the country began receiving death threats; the female family members also received threats that they would be raped.

After Zarema Musaeva was abducted, a campaign against the entire Yangulbaev family was launched in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov publicly called them enemies of Chechnya and terrorists and stated that ‘their place is either in prison or underground.’ He openly called upon the Yangulbaev brothers who had left Russia to return and ‘free their mother.’ Similar statements were made by other leading Chechen officials. The Yangulbaevs’ relatives in Chechnya were repeatedly detained. 

We believe Zarema Musaeva is in effect a hostage of Ramzan Kadyrov. Her abduction fits in with the routine practices of the Chechen security services.

More information about the case of Zarema Musaeva and the position of the Human Rights Project is available on the Telegram publishing platform.

A full list of political prisoners in Russia can be found on our temporary website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions. 

How can you help?

You can write letters to Zarema Musaeva at the following address:

In English: Zarema Abuyazitovna Musaeva (born 1969), Remand Prison No. 1,  Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Chechen Republic, 2 Kunta-Khadzhi Kishiev Street, Grozny, 364037

In Russian: 364037, г. Грозный, улица Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Чеченской республике, Мусаевой Зареме Абуязитовне, 1969 г.р.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the YooMoney or PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. 

Published by kind permission of ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’

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