Tajiks Detained Last Year Convicted of Possession of Weapons

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Nov 25, 2011, 7:55:29 AM11/25/11
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Tajiks Detained Last Year Convicted of Possession of Weapons

The verdict of the so-called 'Tajik Case' (http://www.memo.ru/eng/news/2010/11/02/0211103.htm) has been put into action. Of the six Tajiks who were originally accused and the twenty Dagestanis questioned during the trial, two appeared in the dock – Alisher Otadzhonzade and Akbardzhon Otaboev.

On November 3rd 2011 in Ostankinsky district court in Moscow, both pleaded guilty to violating  pt. 2 art. 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, possession, transport, or carrying of weapons or the basic components thereof, ammunition, explosive materials, or explosive devices) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (CCRF). They were sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment in a standard regime penal colony. They began serving their sentence on November 2nd 2010, i.e. in three months' time the convicts will be able to apply for early release on parole.

Recall that on October 15th 2010, several unidentified persons in civilian clothes turned up at the hut near Mir Avenue in Moscow where three dozen working immigrants from Tajikistan lived. They began searching the place, walking round the room asking irrelevant questions. The same people returned on October 19th claiming to be working for the criminal investigation department, but did not produce any documents and did not introduce themselves. The men asked the inhabitants to identify persons in some very old photographs, they were on wanted list in Uzbekistan. No-one recognised the individuals.

That evening, on returning home from work, one of the immigrants went to do his laundry. When he pulled a basin out from under his bed, he found a packet of extremist pamphlets. The packet did not belong to any of the lodgers. He decided, on reflection, not to inform the police about this discovery, but to eliminate it, and wasted no time in doing so.     

The next day, October 20th, several cars turned up at the immigrants' home carrying representatives of various security agencies wearing masks (the lodgers reckon they were working for the Federal Security Service (FSS) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs), as well as a bomb technician, photographers, and dogs. They got the men down on the floor, handcuffed them, and beat three of them. They searched the place. The bed under which the pamphlets had been found was smashed to pieces. They were busy for a long time in the house. The women saw that some black packages were brought onto the premises. The whole affair lasted more than three hours.

After the search the inhabitants were told that an explosive device had been found on the premises.

At around 11pm members of the secret service who had carried out the operation drove off with ten men and three schoolchildren. For a day no-one knew where they were.

Following searches on October 21st, six of the detainees were found in the Alekseevski Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

The three children were being kept in the City Children's Hospital № 21 for homeless children. One of the children's fathers released his child after paying a 'fine' – with no receipt – of 2000 rubles.

On October 22nd members of the Committee 'Civic Assistance' called the hospital and received confirmation that the police were not allowing the doctor to release the children. It was only on Monday October 25th that our lawyer could speak with police officers and managed to convince them to release the children without a 'fine'.

In the evening of October 22nd we finally found out that all six detainees were being held under administrative arrest for twelve days. The police officers could not give the reason for this punishment. Another three were being held in a detention centre for foreign citizens who are sentenced to deportation.

It eventually emerged that the detainees were being held in Moscow DIA special detention facility №1 for administrative detention and arrest. On October 25th we asked three lawyers to defend the detainees: two members of the 'Migration and Law' Network at Human Rights Centre 'Memorial', Emil Taubulatov and Roman Onishchenko, and a lawyer from the Committee  'Civic Assistance' Gulnara Bobodzhanova (for further information on this see 'Is an extremism trial in the pipeline?'  (http://www.memo.ru/eng/news/2010/11/01/0111104.htm).

The defence lawyers studied the case materials on the administrative offences and found that, according to them, the immigrants were not taken from their premises, but were arrested outside, where they swore obscenely and resisted arrest.

All the convicts told their lawyers that while they were in custody they were repeatedly visited by members of the FSS who offered their co-operation and tried to get them to sign some bit of paper, promising that they would be released immediately afterwards. The arrested men all said that they wanted to have a lawyer present, but this did not happen. One of the men was so intimidated that he signed the paper, but, of course, he was not released.

When the lawyers asked workers at the detention centre on what grounds the FSS employees were punishing the detainees in such a way, they replied that 'they [the FSS – S. G.] always do this, and there's nothing to be done about it.'

In accordance with protocol, the administrative arrest ended on November 2nd at 2.10am. Lawyers and relatives of the detainees waited outside the detention centre from morning. However, at 6pm, the defence lawyers were informed that their clients would not be released as the FSS had received information about them. The lawyers asked to meet with their clients. After much pressure, workers at the detention centre eventually admitted that the Tajiks had been already been moved elsewhere by FSS employees.

Our worst fears were confirmed.

At 10am on November 2nd a court hearing had been held to decide the measure of restraint for the nine detained Tajiks. They were all sentenced to be taken into custody.

The lawyers began meticulously working on a plan. They appealed, unsuccessfully, against unlawful detainment, decisions about the administrative offences, and violations to detention regulations by the administration of the special detention centre (for further information on the extremism trial see: http://www.memo.ru/eng/news/2010/11/18/1811102.html).

During their work the lawyers learnt many interesting things about the 'investigation' of the 'Tajik case'. Up to the first interrogation, the case materials contain explanations of the facts by the detainees in fluent Russian. From these explanations it was easy to come to the conclusion that they were planning a terrorist attack.

It is our guess (though nothing more) that this case was intended to support the Russian Supreme Court's revelation on February 14th 2003 of a number of terrorist organisations, including the 'Islamic Freedom Party' ('Hizb ut-Tahrir'). For all this party's doubtful activity, it has never been involved in any terrorist activity. This is a fault which needs to be corrected in the 'Tajik case', since all the inhabitants of the bunkhouse were supposed to be announced as members of 'Hizb ut-Tahrir'.

The FSS intended to bring yet more Russian 'members' of the organisation into the 'Tajik case'. To this end, on December 7th 2010, a number of searches were carried out at the Moscow homes of two dozen North Caucasians. During one of these searches a monitor for HRC 'Memorial', Bakhrom Khamroev, was beaten (http://www.memo.ru/eng/news/2010/12/08/0812101.html).

Those detained during the proceedings were taken to be interrogated, where our lawyers revealed that they were again searched and questioned on the 'Tajik case'.

Our lawyers work nearly led to the case being abandoned; the Caucasians went back home, some further, for their sins, the Tajiks refused to denounce each other nor to sign confessions of guilt without the presence of a lawyer or interpreter.

It is possible that nothing more would have come of the case were it not for the interference of a relative of two accused brothers. The relative was not accustomed to the way our lawyers work: as they do not accept money, this must mean they are bad professionals, so they will not have anything to offer the inspector, and will not arrive at an agreement with him.

The inspector arranged a meeting for the relative with the brothers, where he convinced the elder to plead guilty and to co-operate with the investigation. The younger then needed to collude with this version of events.  We will not name the elder brother as his case is apart from this one and is being considered seperately.

In the end, only two remained in the dock: the younger of the 'confessor' brothers, Alisher Otadzhonzade, and one of our clients who was taken in by Alisher, Akbardzhon Otaboev.

As mentioned earlier, they were both sentenced to 2.5 years' imprisonment in a standard regime penal colony.

Why, given the current situation such an outcome for the 'Tajik case' is almost a victory. Almost.

Svetlana Gannushkina

November 25, 2011

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