Daghestani authorities refuse 64th request for protest permit in support of imprisoned journalist

16 August 2019
Protest in support of Chernovik journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev. (Saida Vagabova / OC Media)

Daghestan’s Ministry of Justice has denied a permit to supporters of detained journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev to hold a protest in his support. The owner of Chernovik, the newspaper at which he worked, told OC Media that this was the 64th time the authorities had turned down their request.

Arsen Magomedov, one of the organisers of the rally, told OC Media that the authorities had come up with a number of reasons for their refusals, from daily fairs and cultural events to a supposed risk of terrorist attacks.

Gadzhiyev was detained on 14 June on suspicion of ‘financing terrorism’ and of ‘participating in a terrorist organization’. On 18 June, he and two businesspeople from Moscow, Kemal Tambiyev and Abubakar Rizvanov, were remanded into two months’ pre-trial detention. On 10 and 13 August, their detention was prolonged until 13 September.

[Read more about this case: Editor and journalist from Daghestani newspaper Chernovik detained on terror charges]

Gadzhiyev was initially accused of ‘financing terrorism through a conspiratorial group in VKontakte called Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev’. The evidence for this was testimony from Kemal Tambiyev, who said during his own bail hearing on 16 June that he signed this testimony under the influence of torture. Tambiyev, who remains in pre-trial detention in Makhachkala, said during a hearing to renew his pre-trial detention on 13 August that he was being threatened by investigators.

On 22 July, Gadzhiyev was officially charged but instead of ‘financing terrorism’, the authorities now accused him of joining Chernovik in order to write about a charity run by Abu Umar Sasitlinskiy.

Sasitlinskiy has been on an international wanted list since 2018 accused of ‘financing of terrorism and participation in a terrorist organization’.

Arsen Magomedov told OC Media that an initiative group had been set up to support Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev comprised of his colleagues, friends, and relatives.

According to Magomedov, the group considers Gadzhiyev to be innocent and with the help of protests, they wish to draw attention to his case and express support to Chernovik. Magomedov said that the group believed the purpose of the criminal case against Gadzhiyev was to influence the editorial policy of Chernovik.

‘They come up with reasons for refusing’

Chernovik’s owner, Magdi Kamalov, told OC Media that since the day Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev was detained, they had sent 64 requests to the authorities to hold rallies and demonstrations in his support, but the Ministry of Justice of Daghestan refused each time.

Kamalov said he hoped that a positive response would be received by their hundredth request since the initiative group wanted to hold an action in accordance with the law.

‘We do not urge people to undertake illegal actions. We hold single-person pickets, which are held strictly in accordance with law and do not require coordination with the authorities. We intend to submit further notifications until the rally is agreed’, Kamalov told OC Media.

Magomedov said that they had appealed all of the refusals but that only once did the court of first instance support the activists, and this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Daghestan.

According to Magomedov, the Ministry of Justice always ‘comes up with reasons for refusing’. He said that in all of the requests to hold a protest on different dates and in different locations that they had sent, it turned out that there was some kind of event, mainly agricultural fairs or cultural events, planned for this particular date and site.

Magomedov said that in the 64th refusal, the ministry gave a new reason. He said that in a letter of rejection, Deputy Justice Minister Sergey Karachentsev, referring to information from law enforcement agencies, wrote that holding mass events at which it was planned to criticise the security forces ‘could lead to terrorist attacks’.

According to Magomedov, the letter of refusal stated that ‘the protesters have a special psychological attitude, miscalculations by the rally organisers are possible, which could create the prerequisites for committing offences, including group violations of public order and security. In addition, from 9 August to 24 August, there is a possibility of sabotage and terrorist attacks in public places and crowded places’. 

Magomedov said that on 14 August, he filed another 27 requests for new rallies in support of Gadzhiyev. He said that one of the requests, which would have the participation of 600 people, was to be held at Dagdiesel Plant — a defence contractor 2.7 kilometres from the Caspian Sea coast.

He said a request was also being prepared for an action ‘in support of the course of Vladimir Putin against the arbitrariness and falsification of criminal cases’.

‘It will be interesting to find out the reasons for the refusals the Ministry of Justice will come up with for these requests’, he said.

‘Intentional refusal’

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice of Daghestan told OC Media that the ministry did not have the authority to coordinate or refuse rallies and other events, and that they could only advise that the date and location of planned actions be changed. 

According to the ministry, the organisers of the action were invited to submit requests for the period of 9–24 September.

Deputy Justice Minister Sergey Karachentsev Sergey Karachentsev told OC Media that the ministry had no political commitments, and when considering such requests, it was guided only by the law.

Marat Ismailov, a lawyer who has frequently appealed in court against refusals to allow protests in Makhachkala, told OC Media that the ministry ‘intentionally and systematically’ impedes the conduct of any non-governmental public events.

Ismailov said that the ministry could not cite a single example of a rally to which they issued permission since there are no such examples.

He said that the Daghestani authorities even impeded events with less than 100 people, which can legally be held without giving notice. He said that in such cases police disperse protesters or detain them. 

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