A court in Chechnya sentenced Zarema Musayeva to five and half years of imprisonment. The announcement of the sentence lasted seven minutes, and Mrs. Musayeva’s attorney was severely beaten this morning


04 July 2023


Today, the Akhmatovskiy district court of Grozny sentenced Zarema Musayeva to spend 5 and half years in a correctional colony. She was found guilty of using violence against a police officer (Article 318 of the Criminal Code), as well as of fraud (Article 159 of the Criminal Code). On the day of the hearing, Mrs. Musayeva’s lawyer Aleksandr Nemov and «Novaya Gazeta» journalist Elena Milashina were attacked by armed men and severely beaten. During the hearing Zarema was without legal representation.

Early in the morning Zarema Musayeva’s lawyer Aleksandr Nemov and journalist Elena Milashina were attacked by armed men in Grozny. Mr. Nemov and Ms. Milashina were on their way to the court from the airport. Ms. Milashina was beaten, her hair cut off and she was doused with brilliant green. Mr. Nemov received numerous injuries, including a stab wound. The defense demanded the court to postpone the announcement for a couple of hours so that another attorney could arrive to replace Mr. Nemov, but  the court declined that motion. Notwithstanding the assault on Ms. Milashina, journalists from a number of Russian media arrived at the courtroom.

In seven minutes, the judge, Mr. Ediyev, found Zarema Musayeva guilty on two counts and sentenced her to five and half years of imprisonment in a general regime colony. This is the exact penalty that was requested by the prosecutor. Zarema listened to the sentence steadfastly, even despite the absence of her lawyer.

Later, Aleksandr Savin visited Zarema Musayeva in the pre-trial detention center. Mr. Savin said that Zarema plans to challenge the court’s judgment.

«Since I was convicted of a crime that I did not commit, I do not admit my guilt. I ask you to take measures to appeal against the sentence,» Zarema underlines in her written statement.

The defense insists that there are a huge number of contradictions in Musayeva’s case. For example, some witnesses of Zarema’s attack on police officer, Mr. Abdulkhamidov, actually, were not eyewitnesses of what had happened. They learned about the incident from other people. One of the witnesses did not master Russian at all, but somehow got acquainted with the protocol on an administrative offense against Zarema.

There are a large number of CCTV-cameras in the police station where Mrs. Musayeva allegedly attacked Mr. Abdulkhamidov. The policemen claimed that all of the cameras are broadcasting online and do not keep records. However, a study of the state procurement website showed that this police station was supplied with cameras which must store video records for at least 14 days. The defense believes that if the investigation had the task of establishing what had actually happened at the police station, then the records would have been seized and attached to the criminal case.

The timing of Mrs. Musayeva’s alleged attack does not agree either. It is known that the investigator finished questioning her at 19:10, and at 19:15 she already allegedly used foul language in the lobby of the police station, where Mr. Abdulkhamidov drew attention to her. It turns out that during these five minutes, Mrs. Musaeva managed to give an interview to the Chechen Ombudsman, Mr. Soltaev, went down to the first floor of the police station and allegedly began her aggressive and unlawful behavior. The defense does not trust this version, since the woman was weakened on the road from Nizhny Novgorod to Chechnya and, according to her words, almost fainted several times at the police station due to the lack of vital medicines.

The forensic examination of Mr. Abdulkhamidov’s injuries also raises many questions. For example, the indictment states that Mrs. Musayeva grabbed him by the cheek and, while holding it, inflicted eight multidirectional abrasions and one wound. However, the expert Chumakov told the court that Zarema did not grab the cheek, but only scratched the victim twice with four fingers. When the versions of the investigation and the expert did not match, the state prosecutor requested that Mr. Chumakov should be given time «to better prepare to answer the question.» After a break, the expert changed his testimony: now his version unexpectedly coincided with the version of the state prosecutor.

The charge under the article on fraud (Article 159 of the Criminal Code) also seems absurd to the attorneys. According to the investigators, in 2017, Mrs. Musayeva met a certain Azimova, who was previously unknown to Zarema, in a shopping mall and immediately offered her to implement a criminal quick money scheme. However, in the case there is no evidence of telephone or other communication between them, as well as of any money transfer. Azimova testified against Musayeva while being in the detention center, where she was placed on 11 February 2022, that is, after Zarema was brought to the Chechen Republic. When Azimova testified, her preventive measure was changed to house arrest, so she was released to her children.

It is worth recalling that on 20 January 2022, Zarema Musaeva was forcibly deprived of her liberty by the Chechen police officers and taken as a witness in a fraud case from Nizhny Novgorod to Grozny. Soon her status of a witness changed to the status of an accused person. Moreover, she allegedly attacked an officer in the police station. All this time, Zarema has been in a pre-trial detention center. The court repeatedly refused to transfer her to house arrest, despite her serious illness and related complications. Earlier, a human rights project «Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial» recognized Zarema Musayeva as a political prisoner. Human rights defenders consider that the criminal case against Mrs. Musayeva is politically motivated, as her sons are sharply critical of the head of the Chechen Republic. Nowadays, Zarema’s sons live outside of Russia and are included by the Russian authorities in the official list of terrorists and extremists.

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