It’s back to court for Pavel Ryaguzov, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov. Today, the Russian Supreme Court overturned their acquittal in the Anna Politkovskaya murder case. Reports the NY Times:
The court said the four men, who were accused of assisting the killer of Ms. Politkovskaya, should be tried on the same charges in the same military court in Moscow. In ordering the retrial, the court sided with the prosecution, which argued that there had been procedural violations by the judges and the defense during the original trial, a court spokesman, Pavel Odintsov, said. Other critics, however, including President Dmitri A. Medvedev, cited the prosecution’s errors and unfamiliarity with the jury system, which is relatively new in Russia, in the acquittal.
A statement issued by the Politkovskaya family on Novaya gazeta‘s website said the following the about the Court’s ruling:
We recognize that the trial of every one of the accused was a fiasco. A fiasco from the standpoint of the evidence which was presented to the court.
But we think they are accessories in the case because we have yet to received an answer about what [they] were doing near the building at the time of the murder.
Therefore, the verdict, which the jury decided was just because there not enough evidence was presented.
We, as before, think that there is one possible option in the progress of the case–its transfer to a supplementary examination. We, as before, are sure that the case was not investigated and not transparent, and our main demand to the investigation which has yet to clarify who ordered the murder and the rest of the participants in the crime.
We only want the case to be investigated as it should be, and hold accountable all those persons responsible including the [murder’s] client.
For an excellent article on the first trials proceedings, I highly recommend Keith Gessen’s ‘The Accused” Hopefully this time the prosecution will present a better case.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
The investigation into Anna Politkovskaya’s murder took another dramatic turn today as Novaya gazeta reported that the chief investigator in the case, Piotr Gabiryan, was replaced for a “more senior official.” According to the Moscow Times, Dmitri Muratov, Novaya’s editor, said on Ekho Moskvy that Gabiryan’s removal was the “result of interference by the siloviki. “The siloviki are achieving what they set out to achieve,” Muratov said. “They wanted to ruin the case, and now they will remove Gabriyan and finish that process.”
Muratov’s statements initiated a deluge of admonishments, speculation, and confusion. RFE/RL reports that the Prosecutor General’s office has since denied Muratov’s claims, counteracting them with a statement that in fact more investigators were added to the team because of the “large amount of work involved.” Case supervisor, Sergei Ivanov, who was also rumored to have been removed from the case, told Kommersant that there was no political or hidden meaning in the reshuffle. “Department officials have the right to take cases away from any one of its investigators.” When asked why the Prosecutors didn’t have faith in Garibyan, he responded, “Look, you are a journalist, a creative person. You would probably be upset if your editor entrusted your college to edit your written notes. It’s different if he does it himself. Similar relations exist among investigators, and therefore to place one experienced important general under the command of another in our system is considered completely improper.”
Sergei Sokolov, Novaya’s senior editor, accepted the claim that the team investigating Politkovskaya’s murder had been “strengthened” but added that, “The newspaper considers the current arrangement of figures not very suitable, and we will continue to work with [chief investigator] Pyotr Garibyan. But no one has been dismissed.” He also indicated that more arrests have been made. “New arrests have been made, and a lot of interrogations are to be carried out; new information is emerging. From the investigative perspective, the case has turned out to be much more complex and difficult than it was thought to be initially,” Sokolov told RFE/RL.
But confusion hasn’t prevented some from sounding the case’s death knell. The Times London said that the case “appeared to be close to collapse” and that the shuffle cast “a shadow over the inquiry.” The Washington Post said that the investigation “appears to be in disarray.” The views appear to be based on Muratov’s statements on Ekho Moskvy. Ever to pounce on any misstep, Western news outlets introduced a new Russian word to its readers: the ever ominous siloviki.
But the real ire about the case is aimed directly at what is now viewed as a premature announcement by General Prosecutor Iurii Chaika. Since his press conference announcing that 11 suspects had been arrested, two have been released, and the initial chief suspect, former FSB agent Pavel Riaguzov, has been charged with unrelated crimes. On Tuesday, a military court remanded him to police custody though it ruled his initial arrest was illegal due to violations of the Code of Criminal Procedure. To many, including Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya, Chaika’s announcement was premature and perhaps soiled the investigation from the beginning. “The fact that the prosecutor general has made the 10 arrests public torpedoes further investigations into this murder,” he told Der Spiegel. “Accomplices and anyone else behind the murder have now been warned.”
It now appears that the Prosecutor’s Office is trying to save some face. The Office has opened an investigation into who leaked information about the investigation, including the names of the eleven suspects to the Moscow tabloid Tvoi den’.
Who knows what will happen next. But I have this strange feeling that when all is said in done, those three Chechen brothers will somehow be all that’s left.
By Sean — 12 years ago
On Thursday, Novaya gazeta published Anna Politkovskaya’s last article. The article is incomplete. This translation was sent out on Johnson’s Russia List #231, 13 October 2006. It was translated by Elena Leonova. I reproduce it below.
October 12, 2006
The anti-terrorist policy of torture in the North Caucasus
Torture in Chechnya: Anna Politkovskaya’s final, incomplete article
By Anna Politkovskaya
Everyone is asking us whether Anna Politkovskaya’s murder was connected with her work on some articles about torture, which she mentioned in a Radio Liberty interview on Thursday, October 5, a day before her death. Today we are publishing fragments from two unfinished articles by our observer. The first fragment includes first-hand testimony about torture, confirmed by medical evidence. The second fragment is a transcript of a video recording which Politkovskaya intended to use for an article. The disc found in Polikovskaya’s possession (we would like to hear from whoever gave her this video recording) shows some unidentified individuals being tortured. The scene was recorded by the torturers themselves – presumably, personnel from one of Chechnya’s security and law enforcement agencies.
Every day, there are dozens of folders in front of me. These are copies of materials from criminal cases against people who are in jail for “terrorism” or still under investigation.
Why is the word “terrorism” in quotation marks here? Because the overwhelming majority of these people are designated terrorists. And by 2006, this practice of “designating people as terrorists” has not only displaced any and all real anti-terrorist efforts, but has also started generating revenge-seekers – potential terrorists. When prosecutors and courts work on political orders and chase after anti-terrorism statistics that will please the Kremlin, rather than working to uphold the law and punish the guilty, criminal cases are turned out like so many pancakes.
The conveyor belt of “organizing full confessions” excels at providing good statistics on “fighting terrorism” in the North Caucasus.
Here is part of a letter I received from the mothers of a group of young Chechens convicted of terrorism: “In effect, these penitentiaries have turned into concentration camps for convicted Chechens. They are subjected to ethnic discrimination. They aren’t allowed out of one-man cells or punitive solitary confinement. Most of them, or almost all of them, have been convicted of fabricated crimes, with no material evidence. Held in brutal conditions, subjected to humiliation, denied human dignity, they are developing a hatred of everything. This is a whole army of young men who will return to us with their lives ruined, their beliefs ruined”
I’ll be honest: I fear their hatred. I fear it because it’s like a river that will overflow its banks sooner or later. And it will be taken out on everyone – not just the investigators who tortured them. The “designated terrorist” cases are the arena where there’s a head-on clash between two ideological approaches to what is happening in the zone of the “counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus”: are we using the law to fight lawlessness, or are we hitting “their” lawlessness with “our” lawlessness?
They’re clashing, thus ensuring sparks in the present and in the future. The result of “designating terrorists” is an increase in the numbers of those who refuse to tolerate it.
Ukraine recently extradited, at Russia’s request, a certain Beslan Gadayev – a Chechen. He was arrested in early August during an ID check in the Crimea, where he was living with the status of a displaced person. Here is a quote from his letter dated August 29:
“After I was extradited from Ukraine to Grozny, I was led into an office and immediately asked if I’d killed someone from the Salikhov family – Anzor and his friend, a Russian truck driver. I swore that I hadn’t killed anyone or shed anyone’s blood, Russian or Chechen. They said firmly: ‘No, you killed them.’ I started denying it again. After I’d answered them for the second time, saying I hadn’t killed anyone, they started beating me. First I was struck twice near my right eye, with fists. While I was recovering from those blows, they twisted my arms and handcuffed my wrists in front of me, and placed a pipe between my legs so I couldn’t move my hands, although I was handcuffed already. Then they grabbed me – or rather, they grabbed the pipe at both ends, and suspended me between two tables about one meter high.
“Straight after they suspended me, they started attaching wires to the fifth finger of both my hands. A couple of seconds later they started giving me electric shocks and beating me with rubber batons at the same time, anywhere they could reach. Unable to stand the pain, I started screaming, calling on God, begging them to stop. In response, because they didn’t want to listen or hear me scream, they placed a black bag over my head.
“I don’t remember exactly how long this lasted, but I started to pass out from the pain. Seeing that I was losing consciousness, they took off the bag and asked me if I’d talk. I said I would, though I didn’t know what I could tell them. I answered in order to escape the torture, if only temporarily.
“Then they let me down, removed the pipe, and threw me to the floor. They said: ‘Talk.’ I replied that I had nothing to tell them. They responded by hitting me with the same pipe, near my right eye again. I fell on my side and I was barely conscious as I felt them start hitting me all over my body. …I was then suspended between the tables again, and they repeated what they’d done before. I don’t know how long it lasted, I can’t remember, they kept throwing water over me.
“The next day, they washed me and smeared something over my face and body. Around lunch-time, an operative in plain clothes came in to see me and said that some journalists had arrived, and I’d have to confess to three murders as well as looting. He threatened that if I didn’t agree, they’d repeat everything they did before and release me after performing abuses of a sexual nature on me. I agreed to confess. After I’d been interviewed by the journalists, the operatives threatened me with sexual abuses again and forced me to sign a statement to the effect that all the injuries I’d received from them, all they’d done to me, all those injuries were allegedly incurred during an escape attempt.”
Lawyer Zaur Zakriyev, defending Beslan Gadayev, told the Memorial human rights organization that his client suffered physical and psychological abuse at the Grozny (village) district Interior Ministry police station. According to the lawyer’s statement, his client had essentially confessed to a raid on police in 2004. But the Grozny (village) police also decided to make him confess to a number of crimes he hadn’t committed in the village of Starye Atagi, Grozny (village) district, Chechnya. According to the lawyer, the severe violence left his client with visible injuries on his body. A medical inspection at the SIZO-1 pre-trial detention center in Grozny, current location of Beslan Gadayev [charged under Article 209 of the Crime Code (banditry)], showed numerous signs of a beating, injuries including scars, abrasions, bruises, broken ribs, and complaints of pain in internal organs.
For all these blatant abuses of human rights, lawyer Zaur Zakriyev has filed complaints with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic…* * * * *
Politkovskaya’s article stops there. It is unfinished. We are attempting to establish what kind of incidents remained undescribed in this text.
One of the last video recordings received by Anna Politkovskaya
The video shows two young men being held and tortured, presumably by personnel from one of Chechnya’s security agencies. One of the detainees is sitting in a car, bleeding (a knife is embedded in the vicinity of the victim’s ear). The other detainee appears to have been thrown out of the car, onto the road. The torturers themselves are not visible – there’s just the sound of their voices, speaking Chechen (Melkhiisk dialect), interspersed with obscenities.
The transcript, verbatim:
“Putin said: ‘keep a lookout,’ he said, ‘on all sides…'”
“He’s still with us! [Addressing the victim, scornfully, using the feminine gender.] She’s refusing to die… slut. Idiot, damn you… Fag, fuck. Look how pretty you are. I’m longing for you.”
“Breathe, buddy, breathe, slut. For God’s sake, I’m telling you, telling…”
“Done, huh? Is he done?”
“Yes, he’s done.”
“Let’s go… over here!”
“Hey, grab the… get in position, get in position, keep all surroundings under surveillance.”Translated by Elena Leonova
By Sean — 10 years ago
When I blogged on the “poisoning” of Karinna Moskalenko last week, I asked, “Was this a murder attempt, a warning, or just paranoia?” Well now we definitively know: It was paranoia. The French newspaper La Figaro reports that an investigation into the mercury that made Moskalenko ill was not planted there by a nefarious Putinite agent to sully another potential “fierce critic.” Strasbourg authorities now say that the mercury came from a broken barometer left by the previous owner. Moskalenko bought the car in August 2008 and just didn’t clean it.
One hopes that Moskalenko will now retract her statement “People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health.” No people don’t, but it doesn’t help that when they do, they don’t clean it up.
I’m afraid that no matter what corrective Moskalenko provides, the damage as been done. The articles echoing another Alexander Litivinenko scandal have already circulated through the culture industry circuitry. Just a few days ago, Time called Moskalenko “a very high profile target.” Yeah, apparently a high profile target of her own negligence. Yesterday, the Washington Post used the poison paranoia to lambaste Russia (again). Here is what WaPo had to say,
“Perhaps this was an unfortunate accident; the police in Strasbourg say they are still investigating. But history suggests otherwise.”
So what is the lesson to be learned? Well, there is obvious lesson that Westerners should be more cautious in making Russia’s “fierce critics'” every word sacrosanct. We might recognize that some of these people are victims of their own paranoia and self-deluded sense of importance. They are not martyrs, saints, or saviors. No matter how much they want us to think they are.
Shout out to frequent SRB commentator Chrisius [Insert Title Here] for bringing attention to it and Eugene Ivanov, who discovered the story.