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 judges Dmitry Gorbovtsov, Adlan Susurkaev and Isa Bataev dismissed three motions filed by the defense team. Decision on the motion related to procedural violation in the course of the case hearing by the court of the first instance will be announced tomorrow. The hearing starts at 10 a.m.
(Photo: Ruslan Kutaev)
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.
However, 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 judge Dmitry Gorbovtsov announcing appellate decision on the defense team’s motion, filed the day before, concerning conducting graphologic examination of Kutaev search record (he claims that his signature is forged on one of the pages). The judges dismissed this motion, but most of all the audience was struck by the motivation of this decision. Judge Dmitry Gorbovtsov: «This search record has signatures of R.M.Kutaev on each of the three pages and under each procedural action, in total there are six signatures, which are not disputed by R.M.Kutaev and only one signature under the graph «Commentary of the person searched» raises some suspicions of R.M.Kutaev. In the opinion of the penal division establishing of the fact that the signature was made not by R.M.Kutaev but by some other person, does not lead to declaring the whole procedural action as an evidence invalid and unreliable, because the fact of the search record drawing up is not denied by the individuals who took part in its drawing up, including R.M.Kutaev».
One can compare the signatures in the search record in the provided comparative collage.
The second motion, which was filed by lawyer Petr Zaikin and supported by his colleague Ilyas Timishev, concerned conducting expert examination of photos, made during the incident site inspection. In the opinion of Zaikin there are sufficient grounds to believe that this investigative action took place the next day and not on the day of Kutaev’s detention, as the prosecution claims. In confirmation of his words the lawyer announced the official data that he received from the Chechen center of hydrometeorology, stating that on 20 February the weather was fair and sunny at the Gekhi village, and the next day the weather was cloudy. Incident site inspection photos do not feature shadows from people or from cars, which may indicate that this investigative action took place on 21 February when it was cloudy, therefore, the incident site report was simply forged.
However, the penal division, having discussed the issue, did not considered it necessary to counter the defense team concerns and dismissed this motion, too, having explained that the court had neither grounds for doubting the fact that this action was conducted on 20 February, nor grounds for doubting the witnesses – six policemen and two attesting witnesses.
The third motion of the lawyers on requesting the details of phone calls (billing) of the witnesses in the period from 20 to 22 February, which could provide information on specific location of the participants of the incident site inspection, was also dismissed. Without going into the consultations room the judges dismissed it based on the same reasoning – that the court had no particular grounds for doubting the witnesses.
Ruslan Kutaev, having envisaged such a reaction of the penal division, stated: «Why each time the motions of my lawyers are dismissed? Because if they are satisfied the Kutaev case will receive a conclusive evidence of the facts, which are stated by defendant Kutaev and his defense team. This issue can be resolved in a very simple manner: it only takes to request the billing and check if all these people, two attesting witnesses and six policemen, were in Gekhi on 20th of February – if all is correct, Kutaev has to go to prison. Honorable judges, I’m convinced that you would dismiss this motion, too… The representative of the prosecutor’s office who is sitting here knows perfectly well that I’m innocent. We all are taking part in a stage play. The stage play which is handed down by someone at the top. Let us go on. But I say: «I’ll go my best so that stage plays like that won’t happen in Chechen Republic and in the Russian Federation. That we have normal courts, normal prosecutors and the defense with equal right to competition in courts».
In the end of today’s hearing the defense team filed another motion, related to the procedural violation in the course of the case hearing by the court of the first instance. During that time Ruslan Kutaev was not given the right to speak during the proceedings. Petr Zaikin provided the court with an expert opinion which stated that the defendant expressed his wish to speak during the proceedings after the hearing of his lawyers’ arguments. However the court interpreted the words of Kutaev in its own way, having considered them as refusal. Due to that the defense team filed a motion on conducting judicial linguistic expert examination of Kutaev’s words, based on which, as the lawyers think, the case should be remanded to the Urus-Martan City Court.
The presiding judge Dmitry Gorbovtsov proposed to the trial participants to postpone the hearing of the prosecutor’s office opinion on this issue for tomorrow and promised to deliver a legal decision.