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One year after his arrest Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev faces new charges

15 June 2020
From left to right: Kemal Tambiyev, Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, Abubakar Rizvanov. Photo: Dana Sakiyeva.

A criminal case has been launched against Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, editor of the independent Daghestani newspaper Chernovik, on the charges of ‘organizing the activities of an extremist organisation’, as his arrest was extended for another two months.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic of Daghestan extended Gadzhiyev’s pretrial arrest until 13 August, partially satisfying the demand of the Investigative Committee of Russia. The prosecution sought to extend his arrest until 13 September.

Gadzhiyev was detained on 14 June, 2019, together with Kemal Tambiyev, a businessperson from Karachay-Cherkessia, and Abubakar Rizvanov, the founder of the Ansar charity foundation. Another 10 people are wanted under the auspices of the same criminal investigation. 

All 13 are accused of ‘financing terrorism’ and ‘participating in a terrorist organisation’.

[Read more on OC Media: Editor and journalist from Daghestani newspaper Chernovik detained on terror charges]

Initially, Gadzhiyev was accused of ‘financing terrorism through a conspiratorial group in VKontakte called “Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev’’’. These allegations were based on Tambiev’s testimonies, who, at a trial in June 2019, stated that he had signed them under the influence of torture.

New charge

On 22 April, Gadzhiyev, Tambiyev, and Rizvanov faced new charges of ‘organising activities of an extremist organisation’. According to the prosecution, from January 2009 to June 2019, while in Makhachkala he, together with Israil Akhmednabiyev, participated in the activities of the Congress of Peoples of Ichkeria and Daghestan and the Supreme Military Majlis ul-Shura of the United Mujahideen Forces of Caucasus. Both are recognised as terrorist organisations by Russia and are illegal.

Israil Akhmednabiyev, better known as Abu Umar Sasitlinsky, is a preacher from Daghestan who collects funds for charitable use in Africa. In 2018 the Russian Federal Security Service put him on an international wanted list on suspicion of his involvement in financing a terrorist organisation.

In his interview with the alKifaya YouTube channel, Sasitlinsky denied the allegations, saying he was accused of funding both the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, groups which, he pointed out, are opposed to each other. 

According to the investigation, the suspects, through the charity funds created by Sasitlinsky, raised money from 2013 onwards in order ‘to disseminate the ideas of Islamic extremism’ and to ‘continue the activities of the Islamic State’.

In July 2019, the investigation accused Gadzhiyev of getting a job in the Chernovik newspaper in order to write about Sasitlinsky's charity.

According to the investigation, between 23 and 26 December 2015,  Gadzhiyev transferred ₽16,000 ($230) to a bank account, the details of which were ‘provided to him by a member of the Islamic state’. 

According to the investigation, a total of ₽67 million ($970,000) were received into the accounts of charitable foundations created by Gadzhiyev and several other accused, of which at least $200,000 were ‘transferred for terrorist activities’.

According to the investigation, Gadzhiyev also published about 20 articles, which allegedly ‘affected people’s minds’ so as to ‘engage them in the activities of a terrorist organisation’.

‘Absurd’ charges

In June 2019, the editorial board of the Chernovik newspaper made an official statement in connection with Gadzhiyev's arrest, calling the charges 'absurd’. According to them, Gadzhiyev had no contact with Sasitlinsky. Chernovik has stated that the charging Gadzhiyev with financing terrorism in the North Caucasus is ‘about the same as planting drugs on Ivan Golunov in Moscow’.

Golunov, an investigative journalist, was arrested on drug charges in 2019. He was released after a widespread outcry, and an investigation launched after his release ascertained that the evidence used against him was planted by police officers. Five ex-police officers were charged with fabricating evidence. 

[Read more on OC Media: Editorial | I/We are Golunov, and Geriyev, and Kochesoko…]

‘The investigation has not specified either the details or the owner of the bank card, where I transferred 16,000 rubles’, Gadzhiyev said in court on Wednesday. According to him, during the period of time in question, the only major payment he made was for plane tickets to Moscow.

He also condemned what he said was a prejudiced and limited approach toward his writings. 

‘I reread all of the listed publications on which the prosecution is based’, he said. ‘To see support for extremism and terrorism or for specific terrorist organisations in these articles, one must be an outspoken xenophobe, an Islamophobe.’

‘Why, while choosing from my articles, avoid precisely those where [the Islamic State] is directly mentioned?’ he added. ‘I have written articles that are against this organisation.’ 

‘Pressuring’ witnesses

The prosecution has argued that extension of Gadzhiyev’s pretrial detention was necessary, as they needed to send a request to Interpol to put the eight people involved in the case on the international wanted list, and separate the case of Gadzhiyev, Tambiyev and Rizvanov into a separate proceeding.

Gadzhiyev’s lawyer, Arsen Shabanov, said in court that the names of the accused were already on Interpol’s website and that the prosecution was deliberately trying to delay the legal process by placing the same individuals on the international wanted list again.

The defence asked the court to release Gadzhiyev, Tambiev and Rizvanov into house arrest or under orders not to leave their home cities.

The prosecution has argued against any conditional release, warning that the accused may take the opportunity to pressure witnesses. 

However, the prosecution itself has been accused of witness tampering. 

Abubakar Rizvanov has claimed that his sister had been threatened by investigators. While Kemal Tambiyev has said that investigators threatened to cause problems for his relatives if he did not acknowledge his earlier testimony against Gadzhiyev was true. He has claimed that this initial testimony was extracted from him through torture. 

Memorial, a prominent rights group, has recognized Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev as a political prisoner.

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