The Chechen authorities have arrested and charged
with illegal possession of drugs Ruslan Kutayev, a former Chechen Republic Ichkeria deputy prime minister who now heads the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus and the International Committee for North Caucasus Problems.
Kutayev, 56, was detained
on February 20 while visiting relatives in the village of Gekhi in Chechnya's Urus-Martan district, southwest of Grozny.
According to Igor Kalyapin, the chairman of the Committee against Torture, Kutayev was taken to the Urus-Martan police station where he was beaten up, after which a record was drawn up
noting the confiscation of three grams of heroin from Kutayev. Kalyapin is convinced that this must have been planted on him. Kutayev's brother Shirvani likewise said
Kutayev had never indulged in either alcohol or drugs.
Kalyapin and other human rights activists from Moscow met with Kutayev on February 24 in the presence of Chechen Republic First Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alautdinov. Asked about extensive bruising on his shoulder and leg, Kutayev said he had had a fall prior to being arrested
. Kalyapin also said Kutayev's lawyers have appealed his arrest with the Chechen Supreme Court.
Just hours before his arrest, Kutayev had telephoned Arslambek Dadayev, a correspondent for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, to inform him that he and other participants of a conference held in Grozny two days earlier pegged to the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples to Kazakhstan and Central Asia in 1944 had been summoned to the administration of Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov for questioning.
Kadyrov decreed two years ago
that the deportation anniversary should be commemorated in May, on the anniversary of the funeral of his late father, Akhmat-hadji Kadyrov.
Conference participants criticized the Chechen authorities
for failing to pay compensation to surviving deportees and discussed the possibility of raising the issue in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kutayev served as a deputy to then acting Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov in the interim government formed after the signing in August 1996 of the Khasavyurt Accord that ended the 1994-1996 war, and as an aide to Maskhadov after the latter was elected Chechen Republic Ichkeria president in January 1997.
Since the 1999-2000 war, Kutayev has campaigned to uphold the rights of Chechens and other North Caucasians vis-à-vis those Russian nationalists who advocate allowing the entire North Caucasus to secede from the Russian Federation. He was co-chairman of the Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship until its closure in October 2006.
As a member of the Russian human rights ombudsman's Expert Council, Kutayev collected and circulated
information about human rights abuses in Chechnya, including inhumane conditions in Chechen prisons.
In April 2011, Kutayev was among political figures from the North Caucasus who advocated the creation of a North Caucasus Democratic Front that could serve as an alternative to, and promote dialogue between, a government perceived as totally corrupt and adherents of the radical Salafi Islam espoused by the North Caucasus insurgency.
Kutayev told the Daghestani weekly"Nastoyashchee vremya"
that the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of the North Caucasus in accordance with Russian law is the only valid alternative to armed struggle.
In that same interview, however, he implicitly criticized Kadyrov's brutal suppression of the North Caucasus insurgency.
Kutayev also argued that self-styled Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov, whom Kadyrov consistently dismisses as a nonentity, exercises "a huge influence" over young people.
He further pointed out that Umarov, who grew up under the Soviet system, is the last remaining influential insurgency figure with whom it would be possible for Moscow to try to reach an agreement.
By contrast, Kutayev continued, the younger fighters born in the 1990s "were brought up to hate everything Russian and accept only the norms of Islam in its extreme radical Shari'a forms."
-- Liz Fuller