Murad Nurmagomedov, 28, computer programmer, blogger, and author of a popular video clip in which prominent Muslims criticize the practice of celebrating the Julian New Year, was arrested on December 31 in Makhachkala on suspicion of illegal possession of arms.
He is being held in solitary confinement.
The independent weekly Chernovik for which Nurmagomedov used to work quoted his relatives as saying that operatives from the Center to Counter Extremism apprehended Nurmagomedov as he was traveling by minibus taxi to a Makhachkala clinic to arrange for his mother to undergo surgery. A search of his person yielded a hand grenade, which one of his friends told the website Caucasus Knot was clearly planted.
Later the same day, masked police officers conducted a search of the hostel room where Nurmagomedov lived with his wife and two small children. The statutory two witnesses were present during the search, but the police refused to allow Nurmagomedov’s wife, Nailya Dalgatova, to call a lawyer.
They “found” in a cupboard used for storing the children’s toys a parcel that when unwrapped contained a second grenade and ammunition that Dalgatova says were planted there. They also confiscated allegedly “extremist” literature, including a copy of A Muslim’s Fortress, a classic compilation of prayers of supplication and invocation.
Friends characterized Nurmagomedov as “quiet, peaceable, and with no radical ideas” and as an exemplary husband and father.
Nurmagomedov has not yet been formally charged. He is to appear in court on January 5, according to his lawyer, Ziyavudin Uvaysov.
Nurmagomedov’s anti-New Year video clip was uploaded on December 31, 2011, and has since received more than 150,000 views.
The following year, up to a dozen young Muslims in the towns of Khasavyurt and Izberbash were detained while distributing leaflets condemning as a pagan tradition the celebration of the Julian New Year.
Daghestan’s Interior Minister, then major general, now Lieutenant General, Abdurashid Magomedov, publicly defended as “a festival of children’s laughter” the practice of marking New Year with a New Year tree and gifts.
-- Liz Fuller