The parents of two teenage shepherds gunned down in the Russian Republic of Daghestan have began a protest in front of the republic’s government building demanding their killings be properly investigated. While the authorities initially claimed the brothers were militants killed in a shootout with police, charges against them were later dropped and a murder investigation opened.
Sevnteen-year-old Nabi Gasanguseynov and his 19-year-old brother Gasanguseyn were shot dead on the night of 23 August 2016 near their hometown of Goor-Khindakh, in Daghestan’s south-western Shamilsky District.
The brothers’ parents, Patimat and Murtazali Gasanguseynov, protested for a third day in the Daghestani capital Makhachkala on Wednesday, and have demanded a meeting with the head of the republic, Vladimir Vasilyev.
They were joined by the head of local human rights group Pravo i Zakon (Right and Law) Dzhambulat Gasanov. The group is assisting the family with the case.
Gasanov told OC Media that law enforcement agencies at first claimed the shepherds were militants, and that they were killed by ‘return fire’ during a counter-terrorist operation in the vicinity of the village. The brothers were declared at the time to be the prime suspects in the murder of Shamilsky District judge Ubaydula Magomedov, killed on 11 August 2016.
Nabi and Gasanguseyn’s parents told OC Media that the Shamilsky District police department did not respond to their complaint about the murder of their sons, and that on 29 August 2016, the Investigative Committee of Daghestan instituted a criminal case against the brothers for ‘encroachment on the lives of law enforcement officers’ and ‘illegal possession of weapons’.
Their father, Murtazali Gasanguseynov, said that when they found his son’s bodies, they were dressed in military jackets that were not theirs and had automatic weapons.
[Read on OC Media: The disappeared men in Daghestan’s ‘fake war on terror’]
In November 2017, the criminal case against the brothers was dropped, and two days later a murder investigation into their killing was initiated, but the investigation has not yet brought results.
‘Give the order to shoot us as well’
Murtazali told OC Media that if the local authorities and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not pay attention to their case and take the investigation under their personal control, they would block the federal motorway and organise a rally of thousands of people. Murtazali said he had sent 12 letters to Putin but had not received a response.
During the protest, Murtazali accused the authorities of covering for the murderers. ‘Everyone in Daghestan is covering for the children’s murder: the Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the Government of Daghestan. Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], if you also cover for the killers of our children, then give the order to shoot us as well, here at this square. Nabi and Gaganguseyn were brutally and deliberately killed, and they were shot twice’.
Police approached the parents several times during their protest but did not try to disperse them.
On Monday, they were approached by Daghestani Sports Minister Magomed Magomedov, who made several phone calls trying to set up a meeting with Vasilyev but with no result. According to Murtazali, several officials and journalists approached them on Tuesday, most to express their condolences.
‘I know who is involved in my sons’ killing…’
According to Gasanov the investigation was not advancing and investigators have denied them full access to the case files.
‘It turned out that the head of the Shamilsky District police department, Ibragim Aliyev, gave a fictitious report, which stated that on 23 August 2016 a [counter terrorist operation] was conducted in the area of Goor-Khindakh. This information failed to be proved. However, the investigation has still been unable to identify the people involved in the killing’, Gasanov explained.
Murtazali Gasanguseynov told OC Media he believed Aliyev was involved in his sons’ killing. According to him, Aliyev was at the time only the acting head of the local police, and was seeking approval by solving the murder of Shamil district judge Ubaydula Magomedov.
‘I am sure that my sons were shot intentionally, because police officers didn’t need live suspects [in Magomedov’s killing]. They sent a policeman, Shamil Gamzatov, to find out when the shepherds would return home’, Murtazali said.
‘My children didn’t have weapons, our family is modest, and the head of police knew there was nobody to stand up for us’, Murtazali added.
According to him, Aliyev was dismissed from his position as head of police three months ago and transferred to Khunzakh District as a policeman.
A spokesperson for Daghestan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed to OC Media that Aliyev was dismissed as head of Shamilsky District Police but declined to specify why or where he was transferred, citing data protection laws.
‘They would have killed one of us’
Dzhambulat Gasanov, from human rights group Pravo i Zakon, told OC Media that with the help of lawyers from Russian rights group Memorial, after two years the parents managed to clear the names of their sons and have the charges against them dropped.
He said that Memorial stopped working on the case after the head of the group’s Daghestani branch was attacked in March. ‘We suspect the security forces made sure we were left without qualified legal assistance.’
‘It is not impossible that law enforcement employees were involved in the beating’ Gasanov added, ‘at least the way the it was organised looks like their style’.
Shamil Magomedov, a lawyer from Memorial in Daghestan, confirmed to OC Media the group stopped working on the Gasanguseynovs case after the attack on Datsiyev as well as the setting fire of one of their cars in January, which they said they believed was ‘related precisely’ to the case. ‘We didn’t have any other cases because of which we could have been attacked like this’, he said.
Magomedov said the case was ‘political’ and that ‘high ranking officials’ were involved. ‘If we had continued to work on the Gasanguseynov case, the ill-wishers would have had no other choice than to kill one of us. Those who are behind this crime have nothing to lose, and they are not able to openly pressure the parents of the killed brothers as it’s too public’.
Magomedov added that they had transferred all materials related to the case to the Russian Committee Against Torture.
A spokesperson for the committee, Abubakar Yangulbayev, told OC Media they were collecting evidence including ‘interviewing witnesses who were not interviewed by the official investigation’. They said they would submit the evidence to the authorities to be included in the official investigation.
According to Gasanov, a complaint by the brothers’ parents is being considered in the European Human Rights Court, and the Russian authorities have been given until 4 October to provide their evidence.