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Daghestan’s acting head Vladimir Vasilyev has ‘taken control’ of a controversial case against four men accused of setting fire to a government building. Reports have also emerged that Akim Kuliyev, the main suspect in the case, cut open his own stomach in protest, after pictures of his injuries were widely spread on social media.
Four residents of Rutul District of Daghestan were detained in early November accused of setting fire to the local administration building. Their relatives have claimed that the men are innocent, and that the allegations against them are fabricated. There is also reason to believe the men have been tortured while in detention.
[Read the full story on OC Media: Mystery fire in Daghestan mountain village: claims of torture and fabrication]
According to numerous media reports, Akim Kuliyev, cut his own stomach with a shard of a tile while in a detention facility in Akhty District. He was taken to the regional hospital but was immediately taken to detention in Makhachkala after being operated on, without being given time to recover. Photos of his injuries were widely shared in social media.
Daghestani UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov posted a photo of Kuliyev on his Instagram page, which has over 2.8 million followers. In the description of the photo, he wrote that he had known Kuliyev since childhood, and said ‘it wasn’t his first day of being tortured when he decided to open his stomach, saying that he will not sign [a confession for] what he did not do’.
Nurmagomedov proclaimed that Daghestan ‘was drowning in injustice’. His message quickly spread over social networks and in local newspapers.
Relatives of Kuliyev and Suleyman Guseynov, another suspect in the case, told OC Media they were no longer being tortured, attributing this to publicity the case has received.
Guseynov’s mother says signs of torture on the men’s bodies have not been officially documented.
Vasilyev takes control
After the case received extensive media coverage, a press conference was held on 27 November with a number of human rights activists. They urged journalists not to jump to conclusions and to wait for the results of the investigation.
Daghestan’s Human Rights Commissioner Ummapazil Omarova told reporters that she had met Kuliyev in the pretrial detention centre that morning.
‘I was expecting to see someone who was suffering, and demanded to meet him in a visiting room. But, to my surprise, Kuliyev did not look bad’, she said.
She added that Kuliyev told her he had injured himself not because of torture, but in protest at ‘unfair accusations’.
Omarova said that there are problems with unlawful police actions in the republic, ‘but in this concrete case, it is still too early to accuse anyone’. She said that the case had now been taken under the personal control of acting head of the republic Vladimir Vasilyev.
Head of the press service of Daghestan’s Interior Ministry Ruslan Ibragimgadzhiyev has announced that the ministry has begun an internal investigation into the case. ‘If there are guilty parties, they will certainly suffer from a well-deserved punishment’, he said.
A spokesman for the Public Monitoring Commission, Omar Omarov, claimed Kuliyev had no complaints against the officers in the detention facility.
‘He says that he is being treated well there’, he said.
‘What is all the lawlessness in Daghestan?’
One of the four men charged for the fire, Efendi Alimov, whose testimony the charges are based, was arrested on 2 November.
Alimov’s mother, Kaynat Alimova, told OC Media that two days before the other three were arrested, her son was picked up from the Amsar village of Rutul District by a relative, Ekhtibar Magomedsaidov.
Magomedsaidov, a local police officer, came to the village in the car of local police chief Artyom Magomedov, who is Efendi’s cousin. Alimov’s mother says her son and nephew went to Smugul village in the neighboring Akhty District to pay their condolences, and on their way back, between 22:000 and 23:000, Ekhtibar reportedly stopped the car to buy bread.
‘What kind of bakery works at 11pm?’ she asks. ‘Then Efendi told our a lawyer he saw a black car arriving. Two men got out, came to the car, where Efendi was sitting’.
She says Efendi told his lawyer that they put a black bag over his head and duct tape over his eyes, before throwing him into the boot and driving away.
His mother says nothing was knowns about his fate for several days. When Efendi called Ekhtibar, he told them he only saw the doors of the police car were open, and that he did not know where Efendi had disappeared, she said.
His mother says that on 4 November, they learned he had been brought to the Akhty detention facility and had been pressured and tortured into giving ‘the right’ testimony and signing a confession.
On 24 November, Efendi was taken to hospital with Akim Kuliyev, where he stayed for four days. On 28 November, he was again taken to the detention facility. The 33-year-old man has a wife and two small children.
Kaynat Alimova insists her son was brought to the hospital as a result of torture. ‘He looked like a corpse. I was given ten minutes to see him in the hospital. He said: “Mum, if this torture continues, I will not be able to endure it. I have no strength, my heart cannot stand it”. His kidneys were beaten and ribs were broken. What is all this lawlessness in Daghestan?’ she told OC Media.