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The acting police chief of Kaspiysk, a city on Daghestan’s Caspian coast, has been arrested on suspicion of ordering an assassination attempt against the then–deputy head of the republic’s Criminal Investigation Department.
On 13 April, police officers and agents from the Daghestani Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Ziyavudin Ashikov after calling him in for questioning.
Ashikov is accused of ordering an assassination attempt against Anvar Shamkhalov in March 2012. At the time, Shamkhalov was deputy head of the Daghestani Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department.
A spokesperson for the FSB told OC Media that the case was being combined with an investigation into two former senior officials, including Ashikov’s brother, on charges of financing terrorism.
Raip Ashikov, former police chief of the Daghestani capital Makhachkala, was detained on 30 March. The previous day, the former head of the republic’s pension delivery department, Omar Abdurashidov, was officially detained as part of the same investigation.
Abdurashidov, his family, and his lawyer have claimed he was abducted by the FSB several days prior to his official arrest and tortured into testifying.
The evidence against the Ashikov brothers
The FSB spokesperson said the assassination case against Ziyavudin Ashikov relied on testimony from three witnesses.
This included testimony from Abdurashidov, who they said told them he had followed Shamkhalov and reported his location to the Ashikov brothers at their request.
They said a secret witness had claimed that Ziyavudin Ashikov told him about the unsuccessful attempts to kill Shamkhalov and that he would succeed in killing Shamkhalov if he did not leave Daghestan.
The spokesperson also said investigators had testimony from 7 April from Shamkhalov, in which he pointed to Raip and Ziyavudin Ashikov as being behind the assassination attempt against him.
Daghestan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs told OC Media that in 2010, Raip Ashikov was police chief of Makhachkala and Shamkhalov was a deputy chief under him, responsible for combatting drug trafficking.
According to the FSB, Shamkhalov testified that during this time, Raip and Ziyavudin Ashikov had offered him money to turn a blind eye towards a pharmacy chain through which the former assistant prosecutor of Khasavyurt, Magomed Abdulgalimov, was illegally selling Tramadol, a highly controlled opioid painkiller that can be addictive.
In 2014, Abdulagimov was sentenced to 11 years in a penal colony for leading a group that carried out contract killings.
The FSB said Shamkhalov testified that he refused the proposal and that Ziyavudin Ashikov threatened to kill him.
Attempts on Shamkhalov’s life were made in August 2010 and in March 2012. According to the FSB, Shamkhalov said he was forced to quit his job and leave Daghestan as a result.
Allegations of torture
Ziyavudin Ashikov’s lawyer, Sapiyat Magomedova, told OC Media that her client resigned of his own will on 9 April.
She said that she believed that the fact that Shamkhalov testified against her client seven years later and not in 2012 suggested he did so under pressure from the FSB.
Magomedova said she believed Ziyavudin Ashikov was detained because he called in the Investigative Committee of Russia on 11 April to examine former pension delivery department head Omar Abdurashidov’s allegations of torture.
During Abdurashidov’s pre-trial hearing on 31 March, he described to relatives and journalists present in the courtroom the torture he was allegedly subjected to by FSB officers, including electric shocks and a mock execution.
He said he was tortured into confessing to financing terrorism and implicating Ziyavudin’s brother Raip Ashikov.
The FSB has now said that Abdurashidov has also testified against Ziyavudin Ashikov.
According to Magomedova, Abdurashidov said that he was ready to provide the names of the officers who tortured him.
Magomedova said that officers from the Daghestani FSB also searched the house of another brother of Raip and Ziyavudin Ashikov, Renat Ashikov, on 12 April, but did not find anything. On 13 April, they searched Ziyavudin Ashikov’s home.
Magomedova accused FSB officers of keeping her in the FSB Administration’s building in Daghestan on 13 April for the entire day. She said they demanded that she sign a non-disclosure form regarding the criminal case, but that she refused.
According to her, they demanded Ziyavudin Ashikov confess and threatened that they would imprison his two other brothers if he went against them during the trial.
Ziyavudin Ashikov’s bail hearing will be held in the Sovietsky District Court on 16 April, after the defence asked to postpone the hearing for two days in order to gather character testimony on the defendant’s behalf.