Prosecutor’s move to liquidate Ingush National Unity Committee as parliament backs protest group

31 January 2020
Protests in Magas on 4 October 2018. (Aznaur Tashayev /OC Media)

The Prosecutor’s Office of Ingushetia has demanded the liquidation of Ingush protest group the Committee of National Unity for failing to properly register. Following the move, a number of MPs from the Ingush parliament backed the group over allegations they had been pressuring MPs.

On 23 January, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian republic submitted a lawsuit to the Ingush Supreme Court demanding it liquidate the group, the lawyer of one of the movement’s members, Magomed Bekov, told OC Media.

Those named in the suit include the Ingush Committee of National Unity (ICNU) and 12 of its activists.

The lawsuit states that the ICNU was not registered with the Ministry of Justice and that there was no information about the organisation’s registration in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities.

The Ingush Committee of National Unity was created in 2018 in the wake of protests against the agreement on new borders with Chechnya. 

‘The goal of the ICNU was to restore the territorial integrity of Ingushetia,’ Abdul-Hamid Yevloyev, a member of the committee told OC Media.

The agreement, according to which 9% of the territory of Ingushetia was passed to Chechnya, provoked mass protests throughout the republic in which the ICNU also participated. 

MPs back the National Unity Committee

On Wednesday, 11 of the 32 members of the Ingush Parliament released a statement addressed to Oleg Vasilyev, the head of the Main Investigative Department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the North Caucasus Federal District, backing members of the National Unity Committee against extremism charges.

In it, they denied that any pressure had been applied on MPs by protesters.

In December 2019, extremism charges were filed against eight protest leaders. The case against them states that protest leader Akhmed Barakhoyev pressured MPs from the Ingush parliament.

It says that ‘acting in cooperation with the rest of the protest leaders and at the meeting of the Council of Teips [Clans of the Ingush people]’ recorded a video message to members of the Ingush Parliament, allegedly coercing them to take part in a Sharia court.

‘Then, taking advantage of the confusion of the [MPs] who came to the Sharia court and feared public censure, they forced them to disclose the results of the secret vote each of them cast, thereby exerting unlawful pressure on them’, it says.

Several MPs from the Ingush Parliament announced in October 2018 that the results of the vote approving the border agreement with Chechnya had been falsified, and that only four of them voted in its favour.

In their statement, the 11 MPs said that they had independently, without coercion, accepted the invitation of citizens to hold a meeting in the Spiritual Centre of Muslims in order to answer questions. They added that as MPs they are obliged to regularly meet with constituents to inform them of the work of parliament.

‘The fact that the meeting took place in Kadiyat, a consultative body of the Spiritual Centre of Muslims of the Republic of Ingushetia does not violate the current legislation’, their statement read. 

‘We, the MPs, have not been threatened by anybody, nobody forced us to do anything or exerted any pressure on us. The question of going to this meeting or not was decided by the MPs themselves’ 

‘At the same time, no one pursued anyone for refusing the invitation. This is a matter of conscience and responsibility to voters.’

The MPs said that if anybody had threatened or tried to exert pressure on them, they would have immediately reported this to the relevant law enforcement bodies.

‘We believe that the circumstances of our meeting with voters appearing in the decision to launch criminal proceedings against [protest leaders] was indicated incorrectly, is far-fetched, and does not correspond to reality’, the MPs concluded.

Since April 2019, more than 30 people have been arrested including the 12 ICNU members named in the lawsuit. They have been charged with participating and organising violence against government officials. 

[Read more on OC Media: Pickets held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in support of imprisoned Ingush activists]

Harassment of public associations in Ingushetia

The ICNU is not the first organisation the authorities have attempted to shut down on administrative grounds in recent times.

In September 2019, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia ruled to liquidate the Spiritual Center of Muslims of Ingushetia, commonly known as the Ingush Muftiate, excluding it from the register of legal entities ‘for administrative reasons’.

[Read more on OC Media: Ingush Supreme Court ruled to eliminate Muftiate]

A former official at the Ingush Justice Ministry told OC Media at the time that former head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov ‘used his influence to get even with his long-standing enemy’. 

He also said that other prominent Ingush public organisations would likely soon be subjected to persecution.

In November, the Ingush Ministry of Justice requested the Supreme Court also shut down the Council of Teips of the Ingush people, which also advocated the cancellation of the border agreement with Chechnya. Hearings on the case are currently suspended. 

The head of the Council of Teips, Malsag Uzhakhov, is among those arrested following the March protest in Magas.

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