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Daghestani Rights Group Plans To Sue Over 'Black Widow' Photos

The website of "Komsomolskaya pravda" on April 9, which features a headline identifying women suspected of being Caucasus "terrorists."

The website of "Komsomolskaya pravda" on April 9, which features a headline identifying women suspected of being Caucasus "terrorists."

The co-chair of the advocacy group Mothers of Daghestan for Human Rights, Svetlana Isayeva, says her organization will file a lawsuit against the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" for publishing the photographs of 22 women who law-enforcement officials say could potentially become suicide bombers.

Isayeva made her announcement on RFE/RL's Russian Service's talk show "Chas Pressy" (Press Time) with Yelena Rykovtseva on April 20. (You can listen to the full program in Russian here and read the full transcript here.)

"We are going to sue," Isayeva said. "I can't speak for the other women who had their photographs published, but our organization will file a lawsuit against 'Komsomolskaya pravda.'"

Among the 22 women whose photographs were published was Gulnara Rustamova, the other co-chair of Mothers of Daghestan for Human Rights.

Speaking on the same program, "Komsomolskaya pravda" correspondent Aleksandr Kots defended the newspaper's publication of the photographs, saying the information came from law-enforcement officials in Daghestan.

"We did not call them potential terrorists. We said they are women who are under the surveillance of the law-enforcement bodies in Daghestan," Kots said. "We did not say that they are potential suicide bombers. We just said the law-enforcement agencies are watching these women."

Following the March 29 attacks on the Moscow subway, when two female suicide bombers killed dozens of rush-hour commuters, law enforcement has indeed been paying close attention to the widows and sisters of militants killed by Russian forces in the volatile North Caucasus region.

Dubbed the "Black Widows," women who lost male relatives in fighting in the North Caucasus have participated in a series of terrorist attacks in Russia in recent years, including attacks on airliners, the Moscow metro, and a rock concert.

But critics say the April 9 publication in "Komsomolskaya pravda" was a step too far. Speaking on the same program, attorney Yury Kostanov accused Kots of reviving the Stalin-era practice of guilt by association.

"Back in 1937, the family members of accused traitors were shot just because they were family members," Kostanov said. "Thank you for reviving this glorious tradition."

-- Brian Whitmore

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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