Write to Russia: Zarema Musaeva – imprisoned on trumped up charges is a victim of collective punishment intended to silence her family members

On 4 July 2023, Zarema Musaeva was sentenced to five and a half years’ imprisonment in a general regime penal colony by a court in Grozny, capital of Chechnya, on trumped up charges of ‘using force dangerous for life or health against a representative of the authorities’ (Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and ‘large-scale fraud committed using an official position’ (Article 159, Part 3) – the alleged fraud was claimed to be related to consumer loans. Subsequently on appeal Musaeva’s sentence was reduced to five years in a low security penal colony and then to four years nine months, also in law security penal colony. Musaeva has been in detention since 21 January 2022. On 15 June 2024 OVD-Info reported that Musaeva had been denied parole. Her health has deteriorated in detention.

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. On the evening of 20 January 2022, seven armed Chechen law enforcement officers, with the support of Nizhny Novgorod police, broke into the apartment of the Yangulbaev family, who had moved to Nizhny Novgorod from Chechnya, and forcibly took Zarema Musaeva away. Zarema Musaeva suffers from diabetes but when she was detained she was not allowed to take any medicines with her.

The following day Ramzan Kadyrov issued an explicit death threat, stating on his Telegram channel (as reported by Amnesty International) that Yangulbaev’s family “is waiting for a place either in prison or in the ground” and that his family members “will no longer be able to walk freely enjoying life” as they “deeply hurt” the honour of Chechens. This was not the first time such threats had been made against the family. On 1 February (as reported by Amnesty International), Chechen politician Adam Delimkhanov shared a video on Instagram in which he explicitly named the family of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, before saying “We will pursue you until we cut off your heads and kill you”. Amnesty also noted that the same day, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, also issued death threats, less explicit, against the family.

After her forcible detention, Musaeva was taken to Grozny, Chechnya, where she was first jailed for 15 days on a charge of petty hooliganism on the grounds that she allegedly swore when she was detained and subsequently remanded in custody on a charge of 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.

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 called for her release. Memorial has designated Musaeva a political prisoner.

On 4 July 2023, Aleksandr Nemov, a human rights lawyer representing Musaeva, and Elena Milashina, a journalist working for Novaya gazeta, were attacked and viciously assaulted while in Chechnya, traveling to Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic, to attend the sentencing of Zarema Musaeva.

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.

Memorial, 11 August 2022

This shameful campaign of persecution against Abubakar Yangulbaev, his family and other critics of the Chechen authorities has gone beyond all limits. If this mistreatment of dissenters and their family members continues, we will be forced to conclude that federal authorities either do not have any influence on the actions of regional officials or that they are accomplices in this lawlessness.

Marie Struthers, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International, 24 January 2022

Chechen authorities continue using collective punishment to suppress all forms of dissent. In the most recent case, in January 2022 Chechen police abducted 52-year-old Zarema Mussaeva, in order to silence her son, who is presumed to be a prominent critic of Chechen authorities.

‘Submission by Human Rights Watch on Russia to the Human Rights Committee’, Human Rights Watch, 10 February 2022

Write to Russia – Write to Zarema Musaeva

The Russian penal system does not allow any messages to prisoners that are written in foreign languages, but Write to Russia is here to help you. To write to Zarema Musaeva to show your support for her, please send your letters as an email to us at: letters-to-prisoners@protonmail.com. We shall translate the letters into Russian for you and, depending on your request, either mail the translated letters on your behalf to Zarema Musaeva or return the letter to you by email for posting in an envelope with an address written in Russian. If we send the letter on your behalf, we ask that you compensate us for the cost of postage from the UK (currently £2.50 – $3.14; €2.92). To learn more about our letter writing project, click here: Write to Russia.

The address to write to Zarema Musaeva is:

Россия, 366285, Чеченская Республика, г. Аргун, ул. Шоссейная, д. 144а, ФКУ КП-3 УФСИН России по Чеченской Республике, Мусаевой Зареме Абуязитовне 1969 г. р..

If you would like to write to another person unjustly deprived of liberty in Russia, the project Write to Russia has so far highlighted the following cases:

  1. Sasha (Aleksandra) Skochilenko – imprisoned for peaceful anti-war protest – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-2/
  2. Mikhail Zhilin – imprisoned for refusing to fight against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-3/
  3. Aleksei Arbuzenko – imprisoned for protesting the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-4/
  4. Aleksei Navalny – imprisoned for peaceful participation in electoral politics – died in custody – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-5/
  5. Evgeny Zinich- imprisoned for his faith – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-6/
  6. Alsu Kurmasheva – held on remand for her work as a journalist – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-7/
  7. Bakhrom Khamroev – imprisoned for his political and religious beliefs and human rights work – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-8
  8. Andrei Kapatsyna – imprisoned for his religious beliefs and refusing to fight in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-9
  9. Gregory Vinter – imprisoned for speaking out about the killings in Bucha and Irpen – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-10
  10. Aleksei Gorinov – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-11/
  11. Vladimir Kara-Murza – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-12/
  12. Darya Poliudova – imprisoned for exercising her right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-13/
  13. Ilya Yashin – Ilya Yashin – imprisoned for speaking out about Russian war crimes in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-14/
  14. Appaz Kurtamet – imprisoned on fabricated charges of ‘financing an illegal armed group’ by a Russian-controlled court in occupied Crimea – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-15/
  15. Vyacheslav Malakhov – remanded in custody for criticising Putin for launching the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-16/
  16. Maria Ponomarenko – imprisoned for sharing information about the Russian attack on the Mariupol theatre – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-17/
  17. Grigory Melkonyants – held on remand for his work monitoring elections – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-18/
  18. Daniil Stepanov – imprisoned for anti-war ‘vandalism’ and ‘cooperation with ‘foreign organisations’ – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-19/
  19. Evgenia Berkovich – a theatre director held on remand on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’ in violation of the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-20/
  20. Svetlana Petriychuk – a playwright held on remand on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’ in violation of the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-21
  21. Oleg Orlov – prominent human rights defender imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-22
  22. Nariman Dzhelyal – Crimean Tatar activist imprisoned on false charges – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-23/
  23. Eduard Sharlot – a musician remanded in custody for criticising Russia’s war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-24/
  24. Darya Kozyreva – remanded in custody on charges of ‘discrediting’ the Russian army – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-25/
  25. Evgeniya Maiboroda – imprisoned for five and a half years on charges of ‘discrediting the Russian army’ – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-26/
  26. Ukrainian citizens Volodymyr Udovyka, Volodymyr Linnyk, Viktoriia Tkachenko and Nataliia Prydatchenko – imprisoned in violation of the Geneva Conventions – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-27/
  27. Nadezhda Buyanova – remanded in custody on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian military –https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-28/
  28. Bohdan Ziza – sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for protesting against Russia’s war on Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-29/
  29. Richard Rouz – serving an eight-year term of imprisonment for criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-30/
  30. Ramilya Galim – sentenced to five years for calling on soldiers mobilised from Bashkortostan not to kill Ukrainians – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-31

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