A court in the Chechen capital, Grozny, has sentenced a Georgian man to six years in prison for attempting to recruit two Chechen men to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Syria.
The defendant, 25-year-old Beslan Cincalashvili, allegedly resided legally in Chechnya from July through August 2014. During this time, prosecutors alleged that he met with two Chechen nationals in Grozny and attempted to persuade them to travel to Syria to join militant groups.
Investigators also said that Cincalashvili promised the men assistance with passports and in traveling to Syria via Georgia.
Cincalashvili’s lawyer, Luiza Killayeva, told the Caucasian Knot on December 27 that the court had handed down its guilty verdict and sentence on December 25.
Killayeva, who prior to the ruling had slammed the case against Cincalashvili as “flimsy,” said that her client was considering an appeal against the ruling, but that she thought such a move would be “practically useless.”
There are very few details about the case against Cincalashvili, including about his background and motivations. According to his lawyer, he moved to Grozny from Georgia about eight years ago and worked in the construction industry. It is not known which region in Georgia Cincalashvili comes from, but his surname and connections with Chechnya indicate he is likely to be an ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge.
Cincalashvili’s lawyer said on December 27 that she and her client believed that the two witnesses in the case, based on whose testimony Cincalashvili had been convicted, had been “planted” -- presumably by the security services. The two witnesses approached Cincalashvili in a Grozny park and started to talk to him, telling him they wanted to fight in Syria and asking how they could get there.
It is not known how many ethnic Chechens from the Chechen Republic are fighting in Syria, but the issue is a highly sensitive topic for the Chechen Republic and in particular for its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kadyrov -- whose original position was to deny that Chechens were fighting in Syria at all -- said recently that “the overwhelming majority” of Chechen militants in Syria are “residents of Western countries who were born there or who left 20 years ago.” A great deal of Russian and Western media attention has also been given to ethnic Chechens from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge who are fighting in Syria, mostly because of the high profile of Pankisi resident Umar Shishani, Islamic State’s military commander in Syria.
In recent months, Chechnya has prosecuted at least three Chechen residents who returned from Syria, the most recent being a man named as Aslan Albekov, who according to news reports is accused of fighting in Syria between August and December 2013. Albekov’s case was brought before the court on December 24, and he has yet to be sentenced.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk