Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.)
Nazran picketers intend to sue for justice
By Umalt Chadayev
NAZRAN, Ingushetia - On October 16 a picket was held in the city of Nazran in honour of the slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. However, the picket was broken up, and several of its participants were arrested by Ingush police. As the participants were being dispersed, a Memorial Human Rights Centre worker, Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, was severely beaten. Physicians later confirmed that she had suffered cerebral concussion and a fracture of the nose.
The picket’s organizer, Magomed Mutsolgov, who is chairman of the NGO Mashr (the Association of the Relatives of Missing Persons), together with representatives of Memorial, the Chechen National Salvation Committee, and the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Displaced Persons delivered statements to the Ingushetian Procurator, the Russian Procurator-General and the Russian Federal Human Rights Ombudsman with a request that those who are guilty should be identified and brought to justice. In the opinion of the human rights activists, the actions of the Ingush police were illegal.
"The picket in honour of Anna Politkovskaya which was due to take place in Nazran at 4pm on October 16 did not pursue any political aims. By holding it, the representatives of the human rights organizations and NGOs wanted to pay a tribute of respect to this courageous woman and honest journalist, who was one of the few who wrote the truth about what is happening in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Similar events have taken place in many cities of the world, in other countries. Moreover, on the afternoon of October 16 a picket in honour of Politkovskaya was also held in Grozny, and there were no excesses there at all," says Aslambek Apayev, who is an expert of the Moscow Helsinki Group on the North Caucasus and head of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Displaced Persons.
"There is only one word to describe what took place in Nazran on October 16, and that is lawlessness. In spite of what the Ingushetian police authorities claim, there was absolutely no dispersal of the picket, as the action had not yet even had time to begin. A large number of police officers and a ’backup group’ composed of local youth who had previously been involved in provoking conflicts at refugee settlements, were moved to the site of the proposed picket in advance," he says.
"In my view, this was a provocation that had been devised and planned in advance. The picket in honour of Politkovskaya was broken up before it had even started. Police officers and men in plain clothes surrounded our colleagues and the representatives of other organizations who arrived at the site of the picket near Bazorkina Street. They shouted insults at the participants, beat them, pushed them, tore the photograph of Anna Politkovskaya out of their hands and stamped on them," says a Memorial member.
"Several men in plain clothes began to beat our colleague Shamsutdin Tangiyev, and when Katya Sokiryanskaya (also a Memorial worker) tried to intercede for him, one of them punched her in the face, breaking her nose. The police officials took no measures to stop these rampaging thugs."
"There are two points of interest concerning what took place in Nazran on October 16. One is that the guardians of law and order declared that the picket was not sanctioned by the authorities, though the law only says that the organizers of an action only have to notify the city authorities of it in advance (which, by the way, was done). In the case of unforeseen circumstances they, in their turn, can recommend that it be held elsewhere, but they certainly have no legal authority to disperse it by force," says Shakhman Akbulatov, director of Memorial’s Nazran office.
"The other point is that the Ingushetian police authorities stated that this was a rally and that a fight allegedly broke out among the participants, so that the police had no option but to intervene and pacify those who were doing the fighting. But for some reason it was only the representatives of human rights organizations who were arrested: four of our colleagues and the chairman of the Mashr human rights organization, Magomed Mutsolgov. They were held until late at night at the police station building, and three young female Memorial workers had their fingerprints taken, as if they were suspected of some criminal offence."
"We have video film of what took place in Nazran on October 16, and it clearly shows everything that happened. There is footage of Tangiyev and Sokiryanskaya being beaten, and of the police, including a high-ranking officer, taking no action to stop it. Soon we plan to make this material public. We also intend to take legal action for the beating of our colleagues and demand that those who are guilty are punished," he says.
Translated by David McDuff.