Timur Khamkhoyev, the former head of the Ingush Interior Ministry’s Department for Combating Extremism (Centre E) on trial for torturing suspects has said he is the victim of a political intrigue. Khamkhoyev made the comments in court on Friday in the city of Nalchik, where his trial kicked off in May.
Khamkhoyev and six other members of the Centre E were detained in December 2016 after they were accused of murdering Magomed Daliyev, a suspect in a bank heist. Investigators found evidence of beatings and torture by electric shock on Daliyev’s body. His wife, who was also detained for the robbery, claimed the centre’s employees beat and tortured her as well.
In total, seven employees of Centre E were indicted. Khamkhoyev and three others remain in custody, while four more were placed under house arrest.
One of the defendants was a member of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) at the time of the crime, and so by law must be tried in a military garrison court in another territory. The trial is now being held in Nalchik, in Kabardino-Balkaria.
‘Revenge of the enemies’
In court, Khamkhoyev refuted the testimony of Zelimkhan Mutsolgov, a resident of Ingushetia detained by Centre E in 2010. Mutsolgov reported that he was subjected to torture and humiliation while in custody, including having a plastic bag wrapped over his head for five days. He added that while imprisoned, he was forced under the threat of execution to renounce any claims against the officers responsible.
Another victim, Adam Dakiyev, recalled being kidnapped by armed men in masks and beaten for several hours, tied to a chair with a cellophane bag over his head. Dakiyev claimed that shortly before this he had fought with someone named Kushtov, whose brother subsequently tortured him in a police station.
Khamkhoyev rejected the accusations, saying that no one used force against Dakiyev, and that he acted as a mediator between Dakiyev and Kushtov. Khamkhoyev indirectly acknowledged that the centre had evidence that Dakiyev was a supporter of ‘Islamic radicals’, who encouraged others to live according to Sharia law.
Several others have claimed they were victims of torture by officers from Centre E, including Ingush resident Magomed Aushev, who was allegedly brutally beaten in a police station for shooting into the air from a rifle during the wedding of a relative.
During the latest hearing on 6 July, Khamkhoyev stated that the criminal case against him was planned as revenge by his enemies. He said he believed this included a certain high-ranking official who he said was taking revenge for his son, as well as local human rights activists and opposition figures. Among the latter, he named one of the leaders of the Ingush opposition Magomed Khazbiyev and head of the Mashr human rights group, Magomed Mutsolgov.
‘I would like to believe that this is a trend’
The criminal case against members of Centre E is the first large-scale arrest of police officers in the North Caucasian republics. In 2012, a criminal case was brought against the leadership of the Karabulak District Department of Internal Affairs. The former head of the department, Nazir Guliyev, and his deputy, Ilez Nalgiyev, were accused of exceeding their official authority and of torturing Zelimkhan Chitigov. Nalgiyev was sentenced to eight years in prison and Guliyev was acquitted.
Despite the high-profile of the Centre E trial, observers have expressed scepticism that this will mean an improvement in human rights in Ingushetia. Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, told OC Media he would ‘like to believe that this is a trend, a change of policy, but unfortunately, there is no ground for this yet’. Kalyapin said ‘it’s not certain that the people who replace them will not work the same way as they did, and it all looks as if someone has quarrelled with someone or someone “did not deliver” something’.
[Read on OC Media: Inside Ingushetia’s anti-extremism centre: torture, extortion, murder]