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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 15, 2005

15 February 2005
Former Duma Deputy From Tatarstan Faces Trial
Sergei Shashurin, a former Russian State Duma deputy representing Tatarstan, faces six charges of fraud in the Vakhitovskii Raion Court of Kazan in hearings that began on 14 February, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. According to police, the illegal deals allegedly brought Shashurin 37 million rubles ($1.3 million). Shashurin was already convicted on 2 February of defaming Tatar Interior Minister Esget Seferov. In public statements, Shashurin speculated on the minister's alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of KamAZ-Metallurgiya General Director Viktor Faber. He also claimed that Seferov was involved in stealing state-owned gold and other crimes. Shashurin was sentenced to 20 months in prison on that charge. A member of the People's Party, Shashurin served as a deputy chairman of the Duma's Environment Committee and was a member of commissions on corruption and geopolitics. He failed to regain his deputy's status, which could give him legal immunity, in the December 2003 elections when a court disqualified him for bribing voters.

House Of Lords Delegation Meets Tatar Parliament Speaker
Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin on 14 February met with a delegation from Great Britain's House of Lords led by William Wallace, who is a specialist in Russia and CIS affairs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The delegation also included specialists in economics, human rights, media law, international relations, and cultural affairs. Guests were interested in general information about Tatarstan and its treaty-based relations with Moscow. Later the same day, the British delegation met with Kazan Mayor Qamil Iskhaqov.

Dutch Ambassador Interested In Tatarstan's Islamic Affairs
Tiddo Peter Hofstee, Netherlands' ambassador to the Russian Federation, visited the Kazan-based Russian Islamic University on 14 February to meet with Tatarstan Muslim Spiritual Directorate Gosman-khezret Iskhaq, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The ambassador expressed his interest in Islamic culture and education in Tatarstan, confirming that these issues are becoming more topical in his country and Europe. He said that often the spread of Islam is accompanied by the spread of tensions, while Iskhaq described Tatarstan as an example of a tolerance-guided, multiethnic, and multiconfessional society.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Human Rights Leader Calls For Punishment Of Officials Who Ordered Blagoveshchensk Police Operation
Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva on 14 February expressed dissatisfaction with the results of an investigation by Bashkortostan authorities of a controversial December police operation in Blagoveshchensk (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 24 January 2005), Interfax reported the same day. Alekseeva said human rights activists plan to complete their own investigation of the event some time after 20 February. She added that activists will demand that those officials deemed responsible for violating the rights of Blagoveshchensk residents be punished. "Not only those who took part in the raid but first of all those who issued orders must be punished," Alekseeva said.

Blagoveshchensk Raid Victims Hold Pickets In Moscow
Thirty-six Blagoveshchensk residents who have been identified as victims of the December police raids arrived in Moscow on 13 February to hold pickets outside the federal Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office demanding that Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev be dismissed, "Gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 and 15 February, respectively. If their demand is not met, protesters plan to begin a hunger strike. For Human Rights movement head Lev Ponomarev told "Gazeta" that pickets will be held on 15-17 February in reaction to attempts by police to conceal from the public the true scope of the Blagoveshchensk incidents. Ponomarev said that in addition to Divaev, who issued the order for the operation, his deputy Aleksei Smirnov, who supervised it, and Blagoveshchensk Mayor Anfas Nurtdinov must be held responsible for the raid. Victims also argue that Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov should bear personal responsibility for the incident. In all, 72 Blagoveshchensk residents have been recognized as victims of violations by police during the December raid.

Tatar Organizations Expelled From Premises
Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress and the republic's 12 other Tatar civic groups were expelled on 3 February from their premises after employees of the Ufa municipal Property Committee broke in the doors to their offices and installed new locks on them, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 February. On 2 February, the committee sent a letter to the Tatar Congress demanding that those premises be vacated. No reason for the order, however, was given in the letter. Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy Deputy Chairman Mejit Khujin told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 13 February that the move came in reaction to the considerable political activity of Tatar organizations in recent months.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova