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Daghestani man accused of joining Syrian rebels

18 January 2017


The court accuses Abdusalam Ramazanov of an unsuccessful attempt to join rebels in Syria; a charge he denies.

A Daghestani man from Tsuntinsky District, at the border with Georgia in south-western Daghestan, has been accused of attempting to join rebels in Syria. Twenty-three-year-old Abdusalam Ramazanov has been charged with attempted participation in an illegal armed group and with participation in a terrorist organisation.

A member of the Anti-Terrorist Committee of Daghestan, who asked to remain anonymous, told OC Media that approximately a thousand people have left the republic to fight in Syria.

‘It is difficult to come to an exact figure, but as of today we can speak of about 1,000 people. It is impossible to say with certainty that all of them joined the Islamic State. As a rule, most of them just want to join the rebels, and then end up in different groups’, the source said.

The indictment against Ramazanov does not mention any specific group.

Ramazanov is accused of ‘participating in an armed formation not provided for under federal law’ and ‘participation in an armed formation in a foreign country not provided for by the legislation of that state, for purposes contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation’  for which he faces 8 to 15 years in prison and the probation for a term of one to two years.

For participation in the activities of a ‘terrorist organisation’, he faces imprisonment for 10 to 20 years and a fine of ₽500,000 ($8,400) or three years’ salary.

Ramazanov’s case is being considered in the North Caucasian Military District Court in Rostov-on-Don. On 11 January, four witnesses were questioned by the state prosecutor via conference call. According to the defendant’s lawyer, Yelena Denisenko, the witnesses confirmed what was written in the indictment: that Ramazanov had informed them about his plans to go to Syria. Witnesses for the defence will be questioned next week.

The authorities in Daghestan investigated the case for a year before sending it to court. According to the indictment, Ramazanov flew to Egypt together with a companion in June 2015. There, they were joined by two Daghestani men. A month later, all four flew to Istanbul, where they met a guide named Ramazan.

He accommodated everyone in one apartment, which, according to investigators, was used as a gathering place for potential recruits, which would later to be sent to Syria with help of the guide. However, after four days in the apartment, police arrived arresting everyone who lived there.

The detainees were released after Turkish police checked their documents. The indictment states that after being left without money or contact with relatives, Ramazanov decided to return to Daghestan. On 20 November 2015, he was arrested in Makhachkala Airport.

According to Ms Denisenko, her client denies any involvement with Syrian rebels and describes the indictment as a lie, and that in reality, he went to Turkey to study. The defence has its own version of events: Ramazanov went to the Middle East to study in Egypt, but at some point moved to Turkey.

‘Ramazanov said that after spending time studying in an Islamic institute in Alexandria, he learnt of a similar institution in Istanbul and decided to move there. According to Ramazanov, he had to pay for accommodation in Alexandria, while the institute in Istanbul provided it for free’, Caucasian Knot quoted Ms Denisenko as saying.

According to her, three days after Ramazanov and his friends’ arrival in Istanbul, they were arrested by Turkish police while walking in a shopping centre. Denisenko said that this happened during the period of mass detainments of foreigners following a terrorist attack on a police station. Police advised detained foreigners to leave the country, following which Ramazanov returned to Egypt and from there flew to Makhachkala on 20 November. According to the defence, Ramazanov was accompanied by his cousin, Samrat Magomedova, who was at the time pregnant and had a small child with her.

The defendant’s father, Kurban Aliyev, told OC Media that Magomedova was also arrested at the airport, together with her child, although they were released soon afterwards. Ramazanov was taken to an unknown location, and has been in custody since.

In February 2016, Ramazanov’s father and Ms Denisenko announced that Ramazanov had been tortured by security forces.

‘He said that he was tortured with electric shocks. I filed a petition twice, Abdusalam himself once, to the investigator to conduct an examination regarding the use of electric shocks for torture, but the investigator rejected them. Then I appealed to the court, but the court rejected my complaint as well’, Denisenko told OC Media.

The court will reconvene on 19 January, when the defence is expected to call witnesses for questioning. OC Media will publish updates of Abdusalam Ramazanov’s case as it develops.

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