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Makhachkala Mayor To Face Trial In Military Court

Said Amirov is in jail in Moscow.
Said Amirov is in jail in Moscow.
It is now nine months since the spectacular arrest of Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov, who remains in solitary confinement in a Moscow investigation facility. Amirov faces separate charges of commissioning a contract killing, and of plotting an act of terrorism. He rejects both charges as unfounded and politically motivated. Amirov’s lawyers say those charges are based at least in part on testimony that may have been extracted from his co-defendants under duress or torture.

The initial charge focuses on the murder in December 2011 in the town of Kaspiisk, of which Amirov’s nephew Yusup Djaparov was deputy mayor, of Investigative Committee official Arsen Gadjibekov. Djaparov was arrested one day before Amirov in connection with that killing. The two are believed to have tasked Magomed Abdulgalimov (aka Kolkhoznik), a former prosecutor’s office staffer whom law enforcement officials have identified as the leader of a criminal gang, with killing Gadjibekov, who had conducted routine searches of the offices of some of Amirov’s subordinates.

The terrorism charge centers on purported plans to shoot down an airliner in which Amirov’s political foe Sagid Murtazaliyev, head of the Daghestan chapter of the Federal Pension Fund, would be travelling. Murtazaliyev said in an interview in July 2013, before the terrorism charge was brought against Amirov, that he knew senior officials had taken out contracts on him, but did not name them.

That terrorism charge is based on testimony by Abdulgalimov, who had been apprehended in October 2012 on a charge of embezzlement. Abdulgalimov reportedly told investigators where the Strela-2 ground-to-air missile-launcher to be used in the attack was hidden. But according to the daily “Izvestia,” a weapons expert was unable to confirm that the weapon was in working order.

What is more, Abdulgalimov’s lawyer Sergei Kvasov told the independent daily “Chernovik” last fall that he doubts any connection exists between his client and Amirov. Kvasov said that during the initial months of the investigation, Amirov’s name was never mentioned, and that neither Amirov nor any one from his entourage ever made enquiries about the investigation into Abdulgalimov’s suspected crimes. Kvasov construed that failure as suggesting that Amirov had no reason to fear that Abdulgalimov could incriminate him.

Kvasov also recalled a disturbing change in his client’s appearance and general attitude as of late January/early February 2013, which Kvasov attributed to his having been drugged or subjected to psychological pressure. It was at the end of January 2013 that Russian President Vladimir Putin named Ramazan Abdulatipov acting president of Daghestan in place of Magomedsalam Magomedov. Amirov had long aspired to the post of president.

Akif Beybutov, representing Magomed Akhmedov, a former Makhachkala police investigator suspected of driving the getaway car for Gadjibekov’s killers, went even further. He told “Chernovik” that Akhmedov, who rejected his services without explanation in the course of the pre-trial investigation, must have been subjected to torture by electric shock. Beybutov stressed that Amirov’s name does not figure once in Akhmedov’s testimony.

Amirov’s lawyer Vladimir Postanyuk told “Chernovik” last month that Abdulgalimov was tortured to induce him to give incriminating testimony in the terrorism case. He also said he has a statement by Akhmedov in which the latter claims to have been subjected to electric shocks by Federal Security Service (FSB) personnel. The paper quotes verbatim medical assessments enumerating the traces of ill-treatment on Abdulgalimov’s body, including haematomas that appeared to have resulted from beating with a rubber truncheon. Akhmedov for his part describes how he was punched in the face and chest. Both men say they were subjected to electric shocks.

While the investigation into Gadjibekov’s murder continues, the terrorism investigation is now complete, the investigator having rejected a list of 30 witnesses for the defense on the grounds that they “do not uphold the position of the prosecution.”

The Russian Federation Supreme Court formally acceded on February 24 to the prosecution’s request that the case be heard by the North Caucasus District Military Court in Rostov-na-Donu.

The rationale cited by the prosecutor for that request was that unnamed co-defendants claimed to have received threats from Amirov. But Postanyuk says that the prosecutor misquoted the investigator, who did not specify the source of the purported threats, or which of Amirov’s co-defendants had received them. Postanyuk pointed out that Amirov is being held in strict isolation and has not even been permitted visits from his family. In such conditions, Postanyuk reasoned, it would be virtually impossible for him to try to intimidate witnesses.

Lawyer Rinat Gamidov, representing Abdulmadjid Akhmedov, who is accused in connection with Gadjibekov’s murder, similarly denied that his client had received threats.

Postanyuk initially said he will insist that Amirov be tried in Moscow, given the uncertainty whether he could be provided in Rostov-na-Donu with the specialized medical treatment he requires. Amirov, who turned 60 last week, is partially paralyzed and wheel-chair bound as a result of injuries sustained during an attempt on his life. He also suffers from diabetes.

But on March 11, the website Caucasus Knot quoted Postanyuk as saying that Amirov and Djaparov had withdrawn their insistence on being tried either in Moscow or by Daghestan’s Supreme Court in light of blog posts implying that they were afraid of the Military Court.

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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