The Story of a Failed Abduction

Source: hro.org (info), 22/09/10

· Articles by Human Rights Defenders

· Refugees, Migrants

· Moscow City & Moscow Region

· Uzbekistan


Svetlana Gannushkina, Civic Assistance and Memorial: “For many years now we have been confronted with the problem of the illegal deportation to Azerbaijan, North Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but most of all to Uzbekistan, of foreign nationals seeking asylum. As a rule the security services of the countries concerned are involved in deportations of this kind. From those we have managed to save from being deported, I have heard that officers of the security services of foreign states in their presence agreed to pay for the services of our law enforcement officers, and they named significant sums of money...” 

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On 14 September 2010 at 17:20 Nabi Nematullaevich Sultanov, a citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan, was arrested in the street by police in Kubinka, a town in the Odintsovo district of Moscow region, as a “person for whom there is an international search”. However, on 20 March 2009 the European Court of Human Rights had placed a prohibition on the deportation of Nabi Sultanov in accordance with Rule 39 of the European Court of Human Rights (Nabi Sultanov was represented at the European Court by Tatiana Chernikova, a lawyer from the joint programme of Memorial and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, and Elena Ryabinina, a member of the Expert Council of the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman. At the national level, the lawyer working on the case is Rosa Magomedova of the Migration and Rights programme of the Memorial Human Rights Centre).

By order of Babushkinsky interdistrict prosecutor of Moscow, Nabi Sultanov was released from custody on 23 April 2010. Later he was given bail on condition of restrictions on his movements. At present the Moscow office of the Federal Migration Service is considering his application for temporary asylum in Russia, and he has the corresponding document certifying his application.

Nabi Sultanov informed human rights defender Elena Ryabinina of his detention. She telephoned the Kubinka police and told the officers who had arrested him that Nabi Sultanov could not be detained on these grounds since he had already been held in custody for 22 months. He had been released because the maximum period he could be held in custody had expired, and his extradition had been halted by the European Court of Human Rights (a decision by the European Court of Human Rights on the merits of his case is expected in the near future).

Nevertheless, at 18.20 Nabi Sultanov was taken to the police station, since in the police database of wanted persons there was information that a new search had been issued in May 2010. He was later moved to the Odintsovo Prosecutor’s Office. Elena Ryabinina went there as soon as possible and submitted copies of all the documents in Nabi Sultanov’s case to the assistant prosecutor, S. S. Mineev.

When comparing these copies with the materials sent by the requesting party on 14 September, it became clear that the new search had been issued on the same grounds as the earlier one. At the formal request of Nabi Sultanov, who does not speak Russian well, and with a power of attorney written by him, Elena Ryabinina acted as his representative during a rapid interrogation and assisted him in drawing up a statement.

After the preparation of these documents, Nabi Sultanov was taken back to the Kubinka police station, and in the morning of 15 September was once again moved to the Odintsovo Prosecutor's Office, where the lawyer Rosa Magomedova awaited him. Until this moment, Elena Ryabinina had accompanied her client.

However, during the day of 15 September, Nabi Sultanov was not allowed access to his lawyer, despite the fact that Rosa Magomedova had submitted the appropriate order. Moreover, the duty prosecutor threatened Rosa Magomedova with administrative sanctions for her intention to remain close to her client.

The international department of the General Prosecutor's Office explained to us that the procedures being gone through with Nabi Sultanov did not require the presence of a lawyer. This explanation is very surprising since it contradicts the legal requirement that a person should have access to a lawyer from the moment of detention. When asked what kinds of procedures conducted with a detainee “do not require the presence of a lawyer”, the answer given was that he was being questioned by a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office.

It is not at all clear why and for whom “a lawyer is not needed”, and also how it is possible to interrogate a person with an extremely poor knowledge of Russian without an interpreter or a legal representative who has a thorough knowledge of the circumstances of the detainee’s case.

In the course of three days we spoke a number of times with representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office S. Mineev who had questioned Nabi Sultanov both on the night of 14 to 15 September in the presence of his representative Elena Ryabinina, and during the day on 15 September in the absence of a representative. Each time S. Mineev referred us to his superiors, thereby creating the impression that he understood the situation very well himself, but was acting under instructions from certain quarters.

On the evening of 15 September, Nabi Sultanov was taken to Odintsovo temporary detention facility. The lawyer Rosa Magomedova was given assurances that after 48 hours Nabi Sultanov would be released.

On 16 September, therefore, Rosa Magomedova arrived at the detention centre by 18.00. However, she was told that the 48-hour detention period would end at 22.10 (although in the detention protocol, a photocopy of which was obtained by Elena Ryabinina and given to Rosa Magomedova, the time of detention was specified as 18:20 on 14 September 2010). The lawyer filed an application at the Odintsovo police station with regard to the fact that her client was being held in custody illegally.

Rosa Magomedov waited more than four hours at the detention facility. While there, she repeatedly asked whether her client would be taken out through the door next to her. She was assured that that was so.

At exactly 22.10 she was told that Nabi Sultanov had been freed and released via another exit, and he had been given back his passport. The latter was impossible since his passport had been handed to the Moscow Federal Migration Service when he made his application for temporary asylum. When he had been arrested on 14 September he had provided, among other documents, a receipt confirming that his passport was with the Federal Migration Service.

Since the lawyer did not find Nabi Sultanov in the street, and his phone did not answer, we really started panicking. There were good reasons for this. Previously some of the individuals whose cases we had been working on had been illegally taken into Uzbekistan.

Over several hours we unsuccessfully tried to find out where Nabi Sultanov was. We sent faxes to the Prosecutor General and to the Moscow Region Public Prosecutor. We called the duty officers at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service. We were calling people at Domodedovo airport. But we didn’t manage to find Nabi Sultanov.

At about 1 am on the night of 17 September Sultanov’s lawyer Rosa Magomedova received a phone call from a person she did not know. He told her they were phoning at Sultanov’s request to say he was in the Odintsovo police station and needed help. At 1.30am Rosa Magomedova found Nabi Sultanov in a police cell. She was told that Nabi Sultanov had been detained near the police station during a document check. At the same time, he had with him only one document: the document issued by the UNHCR to those recognized as needing international protection.

The other documents that Nabi Sultanov had had on him at the time of his detention were now missing, namely:

1) a receipt from the Moscow Federal Migration Service that his national passport had been taken from him to be kept by them;
2) a certificate of his release of 23 April 2010;
3) the order for his release dated the same day;
4) The ruling on his bail order detailing the travel restrictions placed on him.

According to the police station journal (entry №10318), Nabi Sutanov had been brought to the police station at 22.15, that is, five minutes after he had been released from the temporary detention facility. When she had received from the duty officer at the police station, A. Kharin, a verbal assurance that Nabi Sultanov would not be taken anywhere before morning, Rosa Magomedova went home. At the same time, she was given no written confirmation that Nabi Sultanov had been detained and that he had been placed in a cell.

The next day, 17 September, Rosa Magomedova returned to the police station to find Nabi Sultanov no longer there. According to the duty officer, he had been taken to the Prosecutor’s Office. However, in the Odintsovo Prosecutor’s Office, neither S. Mineev nor the duty officer gave a definite answer as to his whereabouts.

At the same time, deputy prosecutor for Odintsovo district, Mr. Kozlov, told the lawyer Rosa Magomedova that Nabi Sultanov had been released on 16 September at 22:00 and was pointless to look for him at the Prosecutor's Office.

Once again telephone calls were made to various officials. Finally the Federal Ombudsman for Human Rights, Vladimir Petrovich Lukin, joined in the search and got through by phone to the Moscow region prosecutor, A. M. Mokhov. Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin asked Prosecutor A. Mokhlov to take steps to clarify the situation.

At about 14:00 an unknown person phoned Rosa Magomedova. He told her he was with Nabi Sultanov at a gas station near the Molodezhnaya metro station and asked that he be fetched.

Rosa Magomedova immediately complied with this request. When she arrived at the location she found Nabi Sultanov in a state of extreme fear as a result of what had happened, and at the same time delighted to meet his lawyer again. Rosa Magomedova then took him to the offices of the Civic Assistance Committee.

From Nabi Sultanov we learned that on the evening of 16 September he had not been released for a single minute, but had simply been transferred from the detention facility to the police station, located in the same building. The morning of 17 September he had been taken to the Prosecutor's Office where, according to Kozlov, it had been “pointless to look for him”.

He had been asked to sign a document, the contents of which he did not understand. He therefore refused to sign the document.

All the time, from the first minutes of his detention, Nabi Sultanov had insisted that his lawyer be summoned.

He was released on 17 September without any documentation whatsoever having been drawn up concerning his detention. S. Mineev had driven him to the gas station in his own car, and even offered him money for his journey.

The evening of 17 September, we sent Nabi Sultanov by taxi from the Civic Assistance Committee to the place he was to spend the night. We asked him to let us know when he arrived.

We soon received a text message which shows how poorly Nabi speaks Russian and how much sense there would be in interviewing him without a lawyer or an interpreter.

At that point, for the time being, this detective story ended for Nabi.

The circumstances he described do not strike us as a relatively harmless “misunderstanding”, as a result of which a person was deprived of liberty for almost three days.

On the contrary, they are deeply disturbing. For many years now we have been confronted with the problem of the illegal deportation to Azerbaijan, North Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but most of all to Uzbekistan, of foreign nationals seeking asylum.

As a rule the security services of the countries concerned are involved in deportations of this kind. From those we have managed to save from being deported, I have heard that officers of the security services of foreign states in their presence agreed to pay for the services of our law enforcement officers, and they named significant sums of money.

We believe that a decisive end must be put to practices of this kind.

If, however, in this case we were not dealing with the consequences of preparations to unlawfully transfer Nabi Sultanov into the hands of Uzbek law enforcement agencies, then what we have is an instance of blatant unprofessionalism on the part of officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office, and disregard by them for the international obligations assumed by our country.
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