A court in the Russian Republic of Daghestan has convicted a suspect in the murder of Khadzhimurad Kamalov, the founder of Daghestani newspaper Chernovik, for possession of ammunition and drugs. Magomed Khazamov, the former head of the village of Bogatyryovka, insists the weapons and drugs were planted on him to force him to confess to the murder or to implicate others.
On Tuesday, the Kirov District Court in the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala, sentenced Khazamov to 3 years and one month in prison.
Prosecutors said that ammunition and drugs were found in Khazamov’s house during a search in April.
Khazamov is one of four suspects in an ongoing investigation into the 2011 murder of Chernovik founder Khadzhimurad Kamalov.
Kamalov was shot dead on the threshold of the editorial offices on the night of December 15 to 16.
Two suspects were detained on suspicion of the murder in 2012, while two more, including Khamzaev, remained at large.
All four were also suspected of involvement in the 2009 murder of Malik Akhmedilov, the editor-in-chief of Daghestani newspaper Sogratl, and two of them were convicted of the killing in 2016.
Khazamov was finally detained in 2014 and, according to the Dagestani newspaper Novoye Delo, was then held illegally for eight months and tortured with electric current to elicit a confession.
In July 2015, he was released on bail.
‘They threatened to humiliate me in front of my children’
In closing arguments in court on Monday, Khazamov once again insisted that he was innocent, while his lawyer, Murad Magomedov, from Russian rights group Memorial, demanded he be acquitted.
The prosecutor asked that he be given 4.5 years in prison.
Magomedov told OC Media that searches in Khazamov’s house were carried out without a court order, and that grenades were supposedly found in the prominent places in his home — on the bathroom shelf along with bath toys.
During the trial, Khazamov said that drugs and ammunition had been planted on him to persuade him to confess and testify against people who might have been involved in the Kamalov’s murder.
According to Khazamov, one officer told him if he confessed to possession of ammunition, the drug charges would be dropped.
‘In addition, they threatened to mock me in front of my children. So I had to agree. Despite promises, the drug charges appeared again in July’, Khazamov siad.
He also said during the trial that police had tortured him.
‘They put a plastic bag over my head, laid me on the floor, tied my hands and feet with tape, and began to torture me with electricity’.
According to Khazamov, he was asked where the fourth wanted suspect was hiding.
During the trial, Khazamov also claimed that he knew in advance that police were planning to take action against him.
He said that the brother of Chernovik founder Khadzhimurad Kamalov, Magdi-Magomed Kamalov, who now owns and runs the paper, warned him of this.
Khazamov said that the day before the searches took place, he also noticed that he was being watched by a car.
Magdi-Magomed Kamalov told OC Media that given the direction the investigation was going in, he assumed that police would try to frame Khazamov for something.
In an open letter to chair of the Supreme Court of Dagestan, Sergei Suvorov, and Minister of Internal Affairs of Dagestan, Abdurashid Magomedov, published in Chernovik in June, Kamalov defended Khazamov.
He said he was prepared to stand witness for Khazamov and to provide his telephone correspondence with Khazamov as evidence that he had warned him about a possible search.
He argued that someone who was warned about being watched by police would not store ammunition and drugs at home.
‘An attempt to shift the blame’
In 2013, Ali Kamalov, the Chairman Journalists Union of Daghestan, (who is the uncle of Khadzhimurad and Magdi-Magomed Kamalov), and Russian journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, publicly accused former Deputy Prime Minister of Daghestan, Shamil Isayev, of ordering Khadzhimurad’s murder.
Novaya Gazeta wrote in February 2018 that one of the suspects in the murder was a relative and driver of Isayev.
In 2014, Isayev successfully sued Kamalov and Dzhemal for defamation, winning ₽50,000 ($750) in compensation.
In February, Isayev was detained in a corruption case and in April, he was questioned in connection to Kamalov’s murder.
During his trial, Khazamov claimed he was asked under torture to reveal ‘to who Shamil Isayev transferred money to “hush up the case” ’.
The murder of Khadzhimurad Kamalov is currently being investigated by the Investigative Committee of Russia.
Russian newspaper Kommersant reported in April that the investigation had been entrusted to the same investigators who are leading corruption investigations into several former Daghestani officials.
[Read from DOSH: Daghestan’s government derailed]
Chernovik owner Magdi-Magomed Kamalov told OC Media that, although the case had been transferred to Moscow after ‘complaints’ from his brother’s relatives, the investigation was still not being properly conducted.
According to him, the authorities were ‘attempting to blame everything on the detainees’, referring to Isayev, Khazamov, and others, without proper evidence or conducting a thorough investigation.