Thursday, August 17, 2006

Force Without Justice

From Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

August 16 2006

Lawyer beaten by police official in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

GROZNY, Chechnya – On August 15 the acting head of the police station in Chechnya’s Urus-Martanovsky district struck the lawyer of one of the detained. This has been revealed by members of the Memorial human rights centre.

According to existing information, on the afternoon of August 15, Zhabrail Abubakarov, a lawyer of the Chechen Bar Association, arrived at the Urus-Martanovsky district police station with his client Adam Pidiyev in order to take part in investigative inquiries. After acquainting himself with a number of materials relating to the case, the lawyer accompanied by the investigator went up to the second floor of the building in order to make a photocopy of one of the documents. In one of the offices. Abubakarov noticed some police officials whom he knew, entered the office and greeted them.

"One of the officials in the room, Umalatov, the police station’s acting head, demanded in a coarse manner that the lawyer explain why he had mentioned him in his letters of complaint. (Umalatov was formerly the investigator of the Pidiyev case, which Abubakarov is defending)", a Memorial human rights worker says.

"To this, Abubakarov replied that during the period of the investigation Umalatov had exerted psychological pressure on his client, and because of this he had written a letter requesting that Pidiyev be re-interrogated at Pre-Trial Detention Centre (SIZO) No. 1 in Grozny".

"Thereupon Umalatov, insulting both the lawyer and his client in language that can’t be quoted, leapt up from his seat and punched Abubakarov in the face, after which he grabbed him by the throat and tried to punch him again. However, Abubakarov managed to break free and leave the building," the human rights activist says.

"Abubakarov has written to Russia’s Procurator General requesting that criminal proceedings be opened against the police officer who attacked him, and also that his client Adam Pidiyev be transferred from the Urus-Martanovsky district police station to Grozny’s Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1. The lawyer fears that after the recent incident Umalatov may apply physical coercion to his client."

According to information obtained by Memorial, five lawyers have gone missing in Chechnya during the years of the second Chechen war. Two of them were found murdered, while the fate of the others is still unknown.

"What happened to Zhabrail Abubakarov is of course outrageous," said Shakhman Akbulatov, director of Memorial’s North Caucasus office.

"But this is far from the first case of coercion (including physical coercion) being applied to lawyers by the state’s investigative bodies. If those bodies allow lawyers to be treated in this fashion, then it may be imagined how suspects and the accused are dealt with. Confessions are often "knocked out" of them by means of blackmail, threats and direct physical pressure. Unfortunately, this is a widespread practice."

Translated by David McDuff.
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