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The head of Russian rights group Memorial’s Daghestani office, Sirazhudin Datsiyev, was attacked on Wednesday morning outside his house as he left for work. Datsyiev remains in hospital in Makhachkala.
A source in Daghestani law enforcement told OC Media that police were on the scene searching for witnesses. ‘The police have accepted an appeal from the victim and are working with him’, the source said.
Staff at the group’s Daghestani branch received death threats in January, after a car used to transport the lawyer of detained Memorial director in Chechnya, Oyub Titiyev, was torched.
The same threatening text message was sent multiple times. ‘You’re walking on the edge of a cliff. Shut down! Next time, we’ll set fire to the office with you inside. The car is a warning’, the message said.
A few minutes after receiving the messages, someone calling from the same number told them ‘read the text message! Next time… Next time…’. Before hanging up abruptly.
Memorial said the threats were directly linked to the situation surrounding Memorial in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
[Read more on OC Media: Death threats against Memorial staff in Daghestan after car set ablaze]
‘Expelling Memorial from the North Caucasus’
‘[Datsiyev] was brutally beaten by unknown people near his house and thrown to the street. Now he has been hospitalised in the neurosurgical department of the Central Republican Hospital. After the arrest of the head of the Chechen office, Oyub Titiyev, on obviously fabricated charges in January of this year, Memorial staff in neighboring regions were threatened with murder’, Varvara Pakhomenko, from peacebuilding organisation the International Crisis Group, wrote on her Facebook page.
The head Memorial’s Chechen office, Oyub Titiyev, was detained on 9 January accused of drug possession, charge he and the organisation have said are fabricated.
A week later, on the night of 16 January, unidentified people set fire to the group’s office in Nazran, in Ingushetia.
Director of the Centre for Conflict Analysis and Conflict Prevention, Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya, told OC Media the attack on Datsiyev was part of an attempt to push Memorial out of the North Caucasus. Sokiryanskaya was the former director of projects for the North Caucasus at the International Crisis Group and a member of Memorial’s board.
‘Now we have two possible versions of events. Either there is a Chechen connection, a continuation of pushing out Memorial and demonstrating that certain forces have seriously decided to expel them from the North Caucasus, and not just from Chechnya. Or there are certain forces inside Daghestan who see human rights activists like a bone in the throat. They could be taking advantage of the fact that everyone will think this is the doing of Chechnya, and thus make their contribution to ensuring that Memorial does not exist in Daghestan’, Sokiryanskaya told OC Media.
According to her, activists are now trying to ascertain what happened.
‘Now it is important to help Sirazhudin and try to do everything necessary to ensure that the incident is documented’, she said.
Memorial operates throughout Russia, including the North Caucasus. Recent cases the group has worked on in the region include ‘abuse’ by law enforcement during special operations, mass arrests of and persecution of individual Muslims, torture by police, and attacks on businessmen.