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Former top South Ossetian police official arrested over Dzhabiyev killing

19 January 2023
Inal Dzhabiyev‘s funeral procession. Image via RFE/RL.

The former head of the police’s criminal investigations department has been arrested in South Ossetia over the 2020 death in custody of Inal Dzhabiyev, state news agency RES reports.

Dzhumber Bibilov was detained on Wednesday accused of violating regulations surrounding the grounds and procedures for detaining a suspect.

Dzhabiyev, 30, died in police custody in October 2020, two days after being detained on suspicion of being involved in an assassination attempt on the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Dzhabiyev’s death led to months of protests and political deadlock in South Ossetia.

The South Ossetian General Prosecutor’s Office reopened the investigation into his death in October 2022.

According to Caucasian Knot, Bibilov was previously arrested last year in connection with Dzhabiyev’s death, but later released. They report that seven security officials have been charged so far.

Political crisis

After Dzhabiyev’s death, photos of his body covered in bruises were widely shared on social networks in South Ossetia, leading to an outpouring of anger over police brutality and impunity in the region.

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As protests continued from the autumn of 2020 to February 2021, opposition MPs boycotted the parliament, preventing a quorum from being reached.

The move paralysed the government in South Ossetia, preventing the budget from being confirmed and forcing the government to work without confirmation of their authority.

Dzhabiyev’s relatives, dissatisfied with the progress of the investigation, organised a round-the-clock protest on the central square in Tskhinvali (Tskhinval) from December 2020 to the end of February 2021.

Despite the government not bowing to their demands, including the dismissal of Prosecutor General Uruzmag Dzhagaev, opposition protests petered out soon after.

However, the incident damaged the government of Anatoly Bibilov, who went on to lose the presidential elections in 2022.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

Read in Russian on SOVA.News.