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Witness In Former Daghestani Mayor's Trial Says He Was Tortured

Former Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov sits in court during a hearing in Rostov-on-Don on April 24.
Testifying on April 28 at the trial of former Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov, a witness for the prosecution said he was subjected to torture in Daghestan after his arrest. Three days earlier, Sagid Murtazaliyev, who heads the Daghestan branch of the Federal Pension Fund, said that unnamed supporters of Amirov had tried to pressure him to withdraw his testimony against Amirov, who is accused of plotting Murtazaliyev's death.

Amirov and his nephew Yusup Dzhaparov went on trial last week at the North Caucasus Military District Court in Rostov-on-Don on a charge of plotting to assassinate Murtazaliyev by using a ground-to-air missile to shoot down the plane in which he was travelling. Both plead not guilty to that charge.

The two men who testified on April 28 were Magomed Abdulgalimov, a former assistant to the Kizlyar district prosecutor, and his driver, Murad Aliyev. Aliyev said he had overheard Abdulgalimov telling an unidentified close associate that Dzhaparov had asked him to get hold of a portable ground-to-air missile launcher. Aliyev said Dzhaparov regularly purchased pistols, some of which he presented as gifts, plus rifles and mortars for purposes unknown to him. He added that he did not know where that weaponry was stored. Aliyev further denied having been subjected to either physical or psychological pressure in the course of the pretrial investigation.

Abdulgalimov for his part said he had been beaten and subjected to electric shocks while in pretrial detention in Daghestan, but nonetheless refused to testify. He said he began testifying against Amirov only after his transfer to Moscow in summer 2013. Lawyers for Abdulgalimov and Amirov both cast doubts earlier on Abdulgalimov's pretrial testimony, saying it may have been extracted under duress or torture.

Abdulgalimov said Amirov promised him the post of Kaspiisk mayor in return for supplying the missile-launcher. Abdulgalimov duly acquired the weapon, but when he found out that Amirov intended to use it to kill Murtazaliyev he hid it instead of handing it over. On April 29, the court was shown video footage of the retrieval of the missile-launcher from its hiding place. Amirov denies ever meeting with Abdulgalimov.

Murtazaliyev in his capacity as chief witness for the prosecution testified on April 25 by video link from Moscow, claiming that he feared for his life. He said he and his family are currently living abroad (in the United Arab Emirates, according to the daily "Kommersant").

Murtazaliyev said he was informed of the plot to kill him by a colleague who had been tipped off by a former police officer, but claimed not to remember the date or circumstances of that conversation. In an interview last summer, before the terrorism charge was brought against Amirov, Murtazaliyev had said he was aware that senior officials had taken out contracts on him, but did not name them.

Asked by the prosecution what motive Amirov had to kill him, Murtazaliyev said that on two occasions, he had been asked by Daghestan's then-president to persuade an Amirov protege not to run in an election (parliamentary in 2007, for the post of Kaspiisk mayor in 2010). Murtazaliyev also said that Amirov had personally asked him to write off more than 1 billion rubles ($28 million) in unpaid contributions to the Pension Fund by companies that Amirov controlled.

Murtazaliyev's testimony triggered a heated exchange in the courtroom between himself and Amirov. Amirov reportedly made insulting comments, to which the former affirmed his readiness to "sort things out man-to-man" with any of Amirov's male relatives (Amirov himself is paralyzed and wheelchair-bound).

The Pension Fund press secretary in Makhachkala subsequently issued a statement by Murtazaliyev referring to "base methods" employed by Amirov's supporters to pressure him to retract his testimony. Murtazaliyev admitted that "none of us are angels, we all have our faults," but affirmed that "no one has any grounds to accuse me of cowardice, underhand methods, sleaze, or arbitrary violence."

Amirov's lawyer Vladimir Postanyuk has pointed out that only three of the 16 witnesses for the prosecution even mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack using a ground-to-air missile. Postanyuk notes that an expert determined that the missile launcher was not in working order, and that the prosecution has never specified when and where the purported attempt on Murtazaliyev's life was to take place.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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