Chechnya: Criminal charges brought against organiser of conference on deportation of Vainakh people (Chechen and Ingush peoples)

posted 3 Mar 2014, 05:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Mar 2014, 05:11 ]
24 February 2014

Source: (info)
On 20th February 2014, representatives of an unknown security agency abducted Ruslan Makhamdievich Kutaev, resident of the town Achkhoi-Martan, from the home of his relatives in the village of Gekhi, in the Urus-Martan district of the Chechen Republic.

The following day, family members ascertained that Kutaev was being kept in the Urus-Martan police station, that a criminal case had been brought against him under Article 228, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal drug trafficking), and that he had been provided with a government appointed counsel. Kutaev’s family protest his innocence on all counts of involvement in drugs. However, there is reason to believe that Kutaev’s detainment and the accusations brought against him are linked with his active role in civil society and, in particular, with the conference commemorating the deportation of the Vainakh peoples 70 years ago, which was held in Grozny National Library on 18th February.

On 18th February 2014, a conference on “The Deportation of the Chechen people. What was it and can it be forgotten?” was held in the Grozny National Library. The organiser and lead speaker was Ruslan Kutaev, well-known as the president of the NGO “Assembly of the People of the Caucasus.” The authorities had not approved the conference. Taking part were researchers, university lecturers, NGO representatives and people from the arts.

The systematic shifts in focus concerning the interpretation of the historic events of February 1944 by the leadership of Chechnya were discussed at the conference – for example, the official assignment in 2012 of 23rd February as a day of celebration. Commemorative ceremonies are not permitted on this day. The 10th May has been appointed as a day of commemoration and grieving.

It became clear that the authorities had got wind of the conference. Their reaction was characteristic: on the 19th February members of the FSB visited the director of the National Museum. They spoke about the recent conference. On the same day, Kutaev received a telephone call summoning him and all the conference participants to the Head Administration and parliament of the Chechen Republic. Ruslan replied that he was currently in the town Pyatigorsk and was unable to come. The majority of the remaining participants were sent to the assigned place, where they received a very firm talking to from Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic.

On 20th February, when Kutaev was in the village Gekhi staying with his relative, Isa Babatiev, six black Toyota Camrys with government license plates pulled up at the house. Armed men in dark special services uniforms entered the house and took Ruslan away, not even letting him get dressed. During the night he phoned a friend, whom he asked to tell relatives that he had been brought to the Urus-Martan police station.His relatives went to the police station, but were told that Kutaev had not been brought there. Towards midday on 21st February, they succeeded in ascertaining that Kutaev was after all in the Urus-Martan police station, that a criminal case had been brought against him Under Article 228, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code, and that he had been assigned legal counsel. According to his relatives, Ruslan neither drinks nor smokes and the criminal acts he has been accused of have no basis in reality.

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Translated by Holly Jones