Daghestani man branded as extremist is in fear for his life

24 January 2017
Grand Mosque of Makhachkala (Shamil Magomedov/Wikipedia Commons)

A Daghestani man has reached out to OC Media for help after finding himself on Russia’s ‘preventive supervision list’. Arsen Gasanov found himself on the Ministry of Internal Affairs list without his knowledge, and now he’s afraid for his life.

Daghestan has been adding people to the preventive supervision list for several years. On 23 June, Russia adopted a law allowing those who are ‘prone to crime’, or whose behaviour is ‘antisocial’ or ‘violates generally accepted standards of behaviour and moral, rights, and legitimate interests of others’ to be added to the list, which imposes restrictions on freedom. Opaque procedures for adding people to the list allow law enforcement officers to include practically any Russian citizen. As a rule, people, who find themselves on the list must report their movements and actions to their local police precinct. Yet, since the law doesn’t specify how to handle people who are included in the list, in practice, each police station sets their own rules.

Approximately three months ago, 40-year-old resident of Makhachkala, Arsen Gasanov, discovered that his name had been on the preventive list since March 2016. Gasanov told OC Media that this happened when he was detained by police, as he was on his way to attend Friday prayers.

‘Three of my children attend School No. 46, near Gagarin Street [in Makhachkala]. I took one child to their second period and I was supposed to take my younger son and daughter from the first period. I had to wait forty minutes before they finished their classes. Since it was the time for Friday prayers, and I was already late for it, I decided to go to a nearby mosque. I parked my car and I didn’t even managed to step out of my car when I was approached by police. They asked for my documents. I showed them my passport. I never had any problems with law enforcement and I was sure that everything was in order’, said Gasanov.

According to him, the police looked at his passport and declared that he needed to go to the local police department. The man didn’t want to go anywhere, explaining that he needed to pick his children up from school. Usually his spouse picked them up, but that day she was sick and Arsen was the only one who could do it. According to Gasanov, the police pushed him into a car and took him to the police station by force.

‘I was telling them about my children, and they kept talking to me as if they had caught some punk. Three police officers bundled me into a black Lada-14 and took me to the police station. There was a crowd of people there, who were brought in with UAZs [small trucks]. There was even one bus full of people. There were more than 30 people there with me.’

The police recorded Gasanov’s testimony. Seeing that police officers fingerprinted other detainees, Gasanov quietly informed the police officer that he wasn’t going to do that.

‘To my surprise, he did not insist. When he finished recording my testimony, he gave me a document to sign. There were times when I became very upset with him, but I was thinking about my children and wanted to leave as soon as possible. That’s why I signed the document and left. Six months later, approximately three months ago, a police officer named Murad came to my house. He saw me and said: “You look quite normal on the outside. How did you appear on the preventive list?” Until then I thought that in order to end up on the preventive list one had to be involved in something dodgy, like speaking with the wrong sort of person. Or to do something against the law’, said Gasanov.

Since then, according to Gasanov, the police officer has called him every week for a month. He then said that Gasanov needed to go to the police station to be fingerprinted, have his voice recorded, give a DNA sample, and write an explanatory note.

‘I immediately said that I didn’t want to go with him. I asked him, on what basis? He said: “It’s the minister’s order”. If this is an official order, then I want to see it. Or they could send me a summons, so that my relatives know where I have gone. I have four children and a pregnant wife. In this situation, I don’t think it’s a cowardly behaviour, rather than being careful and legally right. This is when he changed his tone: “Stop this unnecessary talk. I’m trying to reason with you, but you don’t understand. They will bring you to us anyway, and then I can’t guarantee anything.” I leave home at 8 a.m. and I arrive home at 1 a.m., I provide for my wife and four children. I’d understand if I barely touched with my shoulder someone who had any relation to extremism. But at that moment it seemed to me that he was threatening me. I began to worry that they could plant something, like drugs or weapons. I read a lot about similar cases and I became frightened’, Gasanov said.

In the Autumn of 2016, Gasanov repeatedly addressed Daghestan’s Prosecutor’s Office with complaints about the actions of the police department. He wrote requests to Daghestan’s Security Department and the police department which questioned him. Almost all of his requests remained unanswered or were met with the ‘usual vague formal replies’. Then, Gasanov sent a recommended letter to the head of the police department. He received a reply one month later. The reply read that ‘there was no confirmation to support claims made in the letter’. It confirmed, however, that Gasanov was included on the preventive supervision list as an extremist.

‘On 14 January, my wife called me from the school where our children study; she sounded very frightened. She learnt that the law enforcement went through all the classes and asked for children of Arsen Gasanov. They collected all their personal data, looked at the children, and left’, Gasanov said.

As Gasanov’s name is on the preventive supervision list, his freedom of movement has been limited. He can’t travel outside of Daghestan, because if his documents are checked, he could be detained as an extremist. He’s now planning to appeal to the courts to have his name removed from the list, but he fears that he could be detained and that the police might plant and ‘find’ something forbidden, like drugs or weapons, before the case goes to court.

At the time of writing, Gasanov has filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare the actions of the police illegal, as well as to oblige the management of the district police department to remove him from the list.

Daghestan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has not responded to our request for comment on the case.

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