Authorities in Ingushetia have searched the homes of three prominent activists opposed to the land deal between the Russian republic and the neighbouring republic of Chechnya.
The searches were conducted between 12–15 October in the homes of Akhmed Pogorov, Sirazhdin Sultygov, and Khasan Katsiyev. All three oppose the disputed agreement signed by the then–head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and his Chechen counterpart Ramzan Kadyrov.
The deal gave around 340 square kilometres (about 9%) of the territory of Ingushetia to Chechnya.
On 27 March, an unauthorised rally was held in the capital of Ingushetia, Magas, demanding the resignation of Yevkurov and the cancellation of the land deal.
[Read on OC Media: Ingushetia’s head to step down after eight months of turmoil]
Katsiyev and Pogorov took part in the rally on 27 March. On 23 April, Katsiyev was arrested on charges of ‘using violence against government officials’.
Sultygov participated in earlier protests and expressed his support for the 27 March rally in video messages.
Pogorov, who was Interior Minister of Ingushetia from 2002–2003, was fined after the rally and was later placed on the federal wanted list as a suspect in the ‘mass riots’ case in Magas.
According to the latest confirmed reports, he is currently in hiding.
In total, 33 protesters were arrested. They have been accused of calling for riots and committing violence against government officials. They are currently being held in pre-trial detention centres in various regions of the North Caucasus outside of Ingushetia.
A search warrant for the wrong address
On 15 October, in the city of Karabulak, 20 kilometres from Magas, law enforcement officers searched the house of Magomed Katsiyev, the father of Khasan Katsiyev.
Magomed Katsiyev told OC Media that he was out shopping when officers arrived at his house. He said that when he returned home, he found 20 armed men and several armoured personnel carriers waiting for him.
He said he was presented with a search warrant signed by Yevgeniy Naryzhnyi, the head investigator into the ‘mass riots’ in Magas.
‘The address of Khasan was indicated on the warrant — he lives separately. I said that they were at the wrong address, that the search was unlawful’, Katsiyev said. ‘The officer immediately crossed out [Khasan’s address], wrote our address on the paper and said that he has the legal power to do that!’
Katsiyev said that he was not provided with a copy of the warrant and was not allowed to photograph it.
According to him, he also wanted to call witnesses — who according to Russian law must be present during a search — but the officers conducting the search, who had come onto the premises with a number of people not in uniform, answered that witnesses ‘were already with them’.
He also said that one of his sons wanted to call the district police officer and the local internal affairs department, but one of the officers said that they would not be allowed in.
Khasan Katsiyev’s sister, Tanzila Katsiyeva, told Caucasian Knot that during the search, security forces examined the contents of the phones of all family members as well as their shared family laptop.
Earlier, on 12 October, the home of some of Pogorov’s relatives in Karabulak was also searched. The next day, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Pogorov had been detained. OC Media reached out to Pogorov’s relatives who denied this information.
Eight hours of questioning
On 14 October the house of another activist, Sirazhdin Sultygov, was searched by FSB officers.
After the raid, Sultygov was taken to the FSB Directorate for Ingushetia in Magas, Akhmed Sultygov, Sirazhdin’s brother told OC Media.
‘They arrived on 14 October at 06:30 in the morning. First they knocked, then they climbed over the fence and began to search the house. My brother is elderly, he is […] blind’, Akhmed Sultygov said.
According to him, the FSB officers questioned Sirazhdin for eight hours.
Russian law prohibits detention without formal registration for more than three hours. Akhmed Sultygov said they had not ruled out filing a complaint against the ‘unlawful detention’ of his brother.
He said he insisted that they let him in to speak with his brother since Sirazhdin’s vision is extremely poor and he cannot move without assistance.
‘They refused, I had to wait on the street’, Akhmed Sultygov said. ‘They asked him about his son, about his daughter, about another son.’
According to him, the reason he was given for the interrogation was alleged information that the son of Sirazhdin, who reportedly died in Syria in 2015, was still alive.
The search was supposedly carried out on the basis of a warrant issued by the Supreme Court of Ingushetia, but Sultygov said they did not receive a copy of the warrant — though it was shown to them before the search and interrogation.
He also said that security forces seized a computer and several gift editions of books on Ingush history.
Magomed Bekov, a lawyer at the Rostov Regional Bar Association who has worked on the cases of other Ingush activists, told OC Media that in his opinion, the raids and interrogations were related to the three activists’ opposition to and participation in rallies against the border deal between Ingushetia and Chechnya.
He used Sultygov’s case as an example.
‘Questions about [Sultygov’s] son are an excuse’, he said. ‘They [probably] asked questions about rallies, on the situation with the borders, about attitudes towards Yevkurov and Zyazikov [former heads of Ingushetia]. I think this is meant to be moral pressure on activists.’