Friday, February 25, 2005

Zara Murtazaliyeva

From: "IHF, Joachim Frank"
Date: Fri Feb 25, 2005 5:28 pm
Subject: Moscow: Young Chechen Woman Unfairly Sentenced to Jail Term. IHF Calls for Fair Appeal Proceedings


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Young Chechen Woman Unfairly Sentenced to Jail Term
IHF Calls for Fair Appeal Proceedings

Vienna, 25 February 2005. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) has written an Open Letter to leading Russian judicial, law-enforcement and human rights authorities about the case of Zara Murtazaliyeva (born 1983), who has been convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to a 9-year prison term. Independent observers have recorded that her trial in the Moscow City Court violated international standards of due process and Russian law and that the charges were fabricated.

A copy of the Open Letter is attached.

For more information:

Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43-676-635 66 12 (mobile)
Eliza Moussaeva, IHF Consultant, +43-1-408 88 22-21 (work)
Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the ˜Civil Assistance" Committee; member of the council of the Human Rights Center ˜Memorial"; member of the Human Rights Commission of the President of the Russian Federation; +7-095-251 53 10 (work) or +7-095-105 91 45 (mobile)
______________________________________________


Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Lebedev
Via facsimile +7-095-290 19 94
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Ustinov
Via facsimile +7-095-921 41 86
Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin
Via facsimile +7-095-207 76 30

O P E N L E T T E R

Vienna, 25 February 2005

Dear Sirs,

We kindly ask for your attention to the case of the young Chechen woman Zara Murtazaliyeva (born 1983), who was sentenced on 17 January 2005 to nine years in prison by the Moscow City Court after having been found guilty of charges of preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in Moscow; involving other people in the commitment of a terrorist act; and illegal acquisition and storage of explosive substances.

Murtazaliyeva`s defense lawyers as well as human rights defenders who monitored the trial are convinced that the charges against her have been fabricated. During the trial before the Moscow City Court, the prosecution was unable to give any evidence that would have substantiated any of the charges brought against her.

Background

In September 2003, Zara Murtazaliyeva, a part-time student of the Linguistic University of Pyatigorsk and resident of the Naurskiy district of the Chechen Republic, arrived in Moscow in order to find a job and help her family.

In December 2003, she was stopped on a Moscow street for a routine document check. In the police department where she was brought, the young woman met Said Akhmaev, an ethnic Chechen officer of the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (UBOP). A few days later, Akhmaev visited her at her working place and offered her a room in a hostel for free. Shortly after that, Murtazaliyeva moved into this room together with her Russian friends Anna Kulikova and Darya Voronova, both of whom had converted to Islam. Later it was revealed that they were video- and audio-taped during the entire time they lived there, as the room offered by Akhmaev had been bugged with eavesdropping devices.


On 4 March 2003, Murtazaliyeva was stopped by the police again, this time near the metro station "Kitai-gorod", not far from the place where she worked (for an insurance company). She was brought to a Department of Internal Affairs (OVD) office on the other side of the city, at Prospekt Vernadskogo, allegedly to verify her identity. There they checked her documents and took her fingerprints. Then she was asked to wash her hands, which she did, leaving her bag behind her. When she returned into the room, the officers took a briquette with plastic explosives out of her bag. On this basis, the girl was put under arrest and criminal proceedings were instituted against her under Article 222 (storage and transportation of explosives). But no fingerprints were taken from the briquette and the explosives were destroyed during an ˜investigatory experiment".

When the room where the three young women had lived was searched, nothing was found except some photographs made by Murtazaliyeva and her girlfriends. Some of them were intended by the young women to show funny scenes on an escalator in the shopping mall "Okhotny Ryad". These photos were used as "evidence" that they had planned to bomb the underground shopping mall.

On 25 October 2004, the mother of Anna Kulikova, V.M. Kulikova, addressed human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina and told her about the pressure exerted on her daughter by the investigators. When Kulikova and Voronova were summoned for interrogation, the investigators exerted strong pressure on the two women to testify that Murtazaliyeva had recruited them, involved them in terrorist activities and prepared for a terrorist act. They were warned that if they did not give the necessary testimonies they would be regarded as collaborators, although the information recorded on the cassettes contained only general discussions among the girls about Chechnya, war and Islam.

On 22 December 2004, the hearings started. The case was considered by Judge M.A.Komarova. At the first court session, Kulikova and Voronova retracted the testimonies against Murtazaliyeva given during the pretrial investigation.

Independent court monitors and journalists who attended the trial observed that Judge Komarova was biased against the girl from the beginning and was not interested in supporting the impartiality of the proceedings. She prohibited Murtazaliyeva`s defense lawyers to conduct an audio recording of the trial, thus depriving them of the possibility to make remarks to the contents of the protocols, for example on some missing or incorrectly recorded words or facts. This was done in violation of the criminal procedural code, which states that the agreement of the judge is not required for audio recordings. In addition, the judge denied all petitions of the defense to call additional witnesses to the trial, including Said Akhmaev, officer of the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime who had offered the free hostel to the three young women.

A Fabricated Case?

The text of the verdict read by Jdge Komarova is in fact a slightly modified indictment, thus entirely based on the prosecutor's version. At all times, Murtazaliyeva maintained her innocence. At the trial she said, "My only fault is that I have been born in this country-- that I have been born Chechen."

Initially, Murtazaliyeva was additionally charged with receiving training as a suicide bomber in a terrorist camp near Baku. However, after the Azerbaijan Embassy sent a protest against such statements to the Russian Foreign Ministry, this charge was dismissed. Another charge - that the then 11-year-old Zara Murtazaliyeva took part in the 1994-1996 war, was also dropped.

After the guilty verdict Murtazaliyeva`s lawyer launched an appeal of the decision by the first instance court within the regulatory 10 days, asking the Supreme Court to cancel the sentence and to send the case to be reviewed. On 10 March 2005 the appeal court (the second chamber) will examine the case in a hearing.

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The IHF is concerned about all elements showing to the fact justice was not rendered in this case, and that the conviction to a 9-year prison term of a young Chechen woman is apparently based entirely on fabricated charges. We appeal to you to ensure that Murtazaliyeva receives a fair trial in the appeal proceedings.

Sincerely,

Dr. Aaron Rhodes (Executive Director)

Cc Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Alvaro Gil-Robles
Via facsimile +33-3-90 21 50 53



__________________________________________
Joachim Frank, Project Coordinator
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Wickenburggasse 14/7
A-1080 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 22
Fax: +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 50
Web: http://www.ihf-hr.org
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