March 26 2015 – The Russian Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Timur Tangiyev following his re-trial before the Supreme Court of Chechnya, which was plagued with procedural and other irregularities, said “Russian Justice Initiative” and its partner organization “Astreya.” The re-trial was ordered on 25 December 2013 by the Russian Supreme Court, after quashing Tangiyev’s conviction of a raft of serious crimes following a finding by the European Court of Human Rights that Mr Tangiyev’s trial and resulting conviction had been unfair because of its reliance on evidence obtained under torture.
By the time Mr Tangiyev’s case reached the Presidium of the Supreme Court in 2013, he had served ten years out of his 22-year sentence. The Presidium decided to send the applicant's case back for re-examination by a new formation of the Supreme Court of Chechnya, citing various violations of Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Meanwhile, Mr Tangiyev and his family had already come under severe psychological pressure from the FSB to relinquish his right to a new hearing following the European Court judgment.
The re-trial before the Supreme Court of Chechnya got underway in April 2014 and concluded in October. Mr Tangiyev was transferred from the penal colony in Vladimir region to the Temporary Detention Center in Grozny (SIZO No. 1). During his detention in the SIZO, Mr Tangiyev came under various forms of psychological pressure and was even physically attacked by personnel of the detention center, some of whom were relatives of the victims of the crimes Mr Tangiyev was accused of. Mr Tangiyev was also threatened by some of the same officials who tortured him in 2003, who now occupy senior government positions. Mr Tangiyev regularly came under pressure to renounce his legal team and his right to a new trial, in return for a “problem-free” stay in the SIZO, and several times received death threats. The situation led Mr Tangiyev to attempt suicide several times with a few months. All the instances of psychological and physical intimidation were documented and sent to the authorities with a request to open a criminal investigation, which was denied. As a result, Mr Tangiyev again complained to the European Court concerning his treatment in SIZO No. 1 during the re-trial, and his ordeal was also highlighted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the course of its monitoring of the execution of the ECtHR’s judgment.
On 2 October 2014, The Chechen Supreme Court again found Mr Tangiyev guilty of the majority of the crimes he was originally indicted for, shaving only one year off his original sentence, despite the fact that there was almost no evidence in the case file that had not been produced without the use of torture. In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr Tangiyev’s defence pointed out that the Chechen jury had been biased, as it included former law enforcement officials. The defence also cited instances of intimidation and pressure by governmental officials on members of the jury and witnesses throughout the duration of the re-trial.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is an extremely disappointing outcome, and will have repercussions for other cases pending before the European Court in which applicants have alleged torture and unfair trials in the North Caucasus,” said Grigor Avetiysan, Legal Director of “Astreya.” “The Supreme Court’s decision in December 2013 to quash the conviction following the European Court judgment theoretically provided an opportunity for the applicant to receive a re-trial that was fair. The conduct of the re-trial once again showed that a fair trial is not possible in today’s Chechnya, and that those who advocate for it face tremendous risks.The Supreme Court today missed a vital opportunity to safeguard the right to fair trial, and has left the applicant with no other choice but to return to the European Court.”