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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 30, 2004

30 December 2004
FSB, Human Rights Expert Deny Reports Of Mass Arrests Of Muslims
The head of the Tatarstan Federal Security Service's press group, Eduard Ismegilev, said on 28 December that all claims by filed by representatives of Chally national organizations to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and published in an appeal to leaders of Islamic countries (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 2004) are unfounded, Regnum reported. Ismegilev noted that one of the FSB's major tasks is combating terrorism, but stressed that the service makes no differentiations along ethnic lines.

Meanwhile, Moscow Human Rights Bureau expert Semen Charnyi said in reference to the letter published by the website Kavkaz-Tsentr that that he does not trust reports claiming that 200 Muslims have been detained in Tatarstan under the pretext of fighting terrorism, Ekho Moskvy reported on 28 December.

State Council Chairman Says Court Ruling On Tatar-Language Rights Is Biggest Event Of 2004
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told a press conference on 28 December that he considers the year's biggest event to be the verdict issued by the Russian Constitutional Court recognizing Tatarstan's right to have two state languages, Russian and Tatar, and the right for its citizens to study Russian and Tatar in equal volumes, reported. "I cannot imagine what the consequences would be if the court had passed a different decision," Mukhametshin said. "Distrust of Tatars toward Russians and vice versa could have appeared and led to tensions."

Program To Raze Dilapidated Housing Completed In Tatarstan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev announced on 29 December that a republican program to raze dilapidated housing has been completed, and RIA-Novosti reported. Under the program that was started in 1996 and cost a total of 20.6 billion rubles ($742.6 million), 2.7 million square meters of housing were constructed. More than 48,500 families moved into new apartments.

Number Of Pilgrims Growing
On 30 December, the first group of pilgrims participate in the annual Hajj is expected to leave from Kazan, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported the same day, citing the Idel-Hajj department of the Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board. Two other groups are to depart on 4 and 10 January. More than 500 people, more than twice as many as last year, are expected to travel through Kazan on their way to Mecca, more than 85 percent of whom are residents of Tatarstan. The current year's quota provided by Saudi Arabia was fully filled.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russian Human Rights Official Criticizes Bashkir Interior Ministry
Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has sharply criticized the heads of Bashkortostan's law enforcement agencies, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 29 December. Lukin said that officers had subjected "500 to 1,000 people" to reprisals during 10-14 December after three police officers were beaten in Blagoveshchensk. Lukin said he discussed the matter with Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev on 29 December. Nurgaliev said a group of experts has been sent to the republic to inspect the situation. Nurgaliev also said, "We are preparing a normative document on cultured and polite relations of Interior Ministry personnel toward citizens," RIA-Novosti reported on 29 December.

Lukin said at the meeting that he has received repeated complaints this year from Bashkortostan residents and human rights activists about local law-enforcement agencies. Lukin then called for the dismissal of Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev, Regnum reported the same day.

Prosecutor Says Addresses Ongoing Investigations
Bashkortostan's acting prosecutor, Mikhail Zelepukin, told a press conference on 28 December that the rate of solving cases of theft and robbery remains very low and in some regions does not exceed 30 percent, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 30 December. At the same time, the rate of solving cases of attempted murders reaches 90 percent, one of the highest in Russia. Commenting on the investigation of the kidnapping and killing of lawyer Konstantin Del, Zelepukin said he is sure that the case will be solved. Zelepukin also said that charges will filed against several Bashneft officials for illegal business practices in the near future.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova