Today penal division of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic has continued the examination of the appeal of Ruslan Kutaev’s lawyers against the court decision delivered on 7 July this year. In the course of today’s hearing lawyer Petr Zaikin asked the judges to review Kutaev’s search record and incident site visual inspection report. The defense team also filed a motion with the penal division on conducting expert examination of the incident site visual inspection photograph, with a question to the specialists on the brand of the vehicle on the photograph. The court will announce its decision tomorrow. The hearing starts at 10 a.m.
As we have previously reported, on July 7 in the Urus-Martan City Court of the Chechen Republic the verdict in the case of Ruslan Kutaev, a Chechen social activist and political figure, was announced. He was found guilty of criminal offenses under Article 228 (2) of Russian Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and possession of large quantity of drugs without intent to sell) and sentenced to a 4-year prison term to be served in general regime (minimum security) penal colony. Plus – a year of supervised release with prohibition on social activism.
Kutaev repeatedly emphasized that he considered his case forged. In their turn, human rights defenders with the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) claimed that this case was forged and the defendant gave the self-incriminating statements under torture.
The Chechen authorities rejected any political motives in the case (the man was arrested one day after he had participated in the conference dedicated to the 70-th anniversary of Chechen – Ingush deportation, the conference was not agreed with the authorities), and argued that the prosecution of the 56-year-old Chechen politician was a standard and commonplace criminal case.
Today’s hearing started with the request of lawyer Petr Zaikin for the judges to review two essential, in his view, procedural documents: personal search record and incident site visual inspection record. Lawyer asked the court to pay special attention to the signature which the defense team believes is not Kutaev’s, as well as the to the photographs of the incident site.
The presiding judge Dmitry Gobrovtsov read out Kutaev’s search record having scrupulously and meticulosly pointed out each detail in the document. Petr Zaikin, in his turn, once again emphasized the fact that the search record does not feature explanation of the rights of the person searched.
After that the judge read out the incident site visual inspection report where it was mentioned that the visual inspection was conducted at fair weather and natural light. If truth be told there is a corresponding graph about the explanation of their rights to all the participants of the hearing. However, as the lawyer thinks, there is a significant discrepancy between the weather conditions outlined in the report and what is seen in the photographs: cloudy weather and absence of shadows.
The main surprise was waiting to be revealed a little bit later. Petr Zaikin filed a motion with the court on conducting judicial and technical expert examination of one of the photographs in the incident site visual inspection report. The issue was that, as Kutaev stated in the course of hearing on 24 October, investigator Tsoltsayev took part in this procedural action, and later he investigated the criminal case against Kutaev himself. The witnesses who were questioned in the course of the case hearing in the court of the first instance, testified that during the incident site visual inspection there were only two vehicles there – both of them were VAZ cars of model 14. However, the defense team thinks that in the bottom left corner of the photograph one can see a part of Toyota Camri car, which is the same brand that Mr. Tsoltsayev uses.
Ruslan Kutaev, in his turn, once again confirmed to the court that the visual inspection of the incident site was conducted not on a sunny day of 20 February but on a cloudy day of 21 February, and investigator Tsoltsayev indeed took part in it.
After that the judges retired to the consultation room in order to deliver the decision on this motion, which will be announced tomorrow, when the court hearing on examination of the appeal against the court decision in the case of Ruslan Kutaev will be continued.