On 23 May 2014 the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic delivered its conviction in the case of Suleiman Edigov, charged with criminal offenses under Articles 317 (encroachment on the life of an officer of a law-enforcement body) and 222 (2) (illegal purchase, transfer, sale, storage, transportation or bearing weapons, committed by a group of individuals by prior conspiracy) of Russian Criminal Code. Judge German Aleksandrov found the defendant guilty on all counts and sentenced the young man to fourteen and a half years to be served in a maximum security penal colony. Human rights defenders with the Joint Mobile Group in Chechnya, who represent Mr Edigov’s interests, intend to appeal against the decision, for they believe the man has been forced to give false self-incriminating statements under torture.
(Photo: Suleiman Edigov in Grozny Investigative Isolator. Traces of torture on Suleiman’s hands. Photo courtesy of Novaya Gazeta)
Suleiman Edigov’s situation attracted public attention when, on 1 November 2013, judge of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic Vakhid Abubakarov disqualified himself from examining this very case. As explained in the decision, it was done on the grounds that the judge had received a telephone call from «a person identifying himself as the Minister of the Interior for the Chechen Republic, general-lieutenant Alkhanov Ruslan Shakhaevich», who warned the judge against acquittal.
Moreover, the Judge noted in the ruling on self-disqualification: «in the course of the trial the Court examined a complex of consistent evidence corroborating defendant Edigov’s submissions, that police officers subordinate to Mr Alkhanov R. Sh. abducted him on 3 August 2012 and were keeping him under unlawful detention till 12 September 2012. During that period of time they were repeatedly wrapping aluminum wires under voltage around his fingers, thus torturing him with electricity with the purpose to obtain confession statements from him. The ill-treatment inflicted him putrid nonhealing wounds of the right and left ring and little fingers».
«After the interference of a high-level official with my examination of the case, any subsequent judgment I deliver in respect of Mr Edigov, even in my own estimate, even in spite of myself, will seem to be either yielding to the pressure, if it is conviction, or displaying courage, if it is acquittal. In other words, it will look either corrupt or protest», concludes judge of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic Vakhid Abubakarov.
However, Judge German Aleksandrov dismissed Suleiman Edigov’s motion to disqualify all Judges of the Chechen Republic from his case on the grounds that pressure is put upon one of them, judge Vakhid Abubakarov, for the reason that «the asserted grounds for judge Abubakarov’s self-disqualification were not supported by evidence».
Meanwhile, neither all the evidence collected in the trial, nor considerable public attention, nor applying to the Prosecutor General and the Chairman of the Investigative Committee, nor the concern expressed by the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights could influence the situation. Aleksandr Bastrykin’s agency has carried out five «blind, death and mute» pre-investigation inquiries. On 28 April 2014 investigator Igor Sobol issued one more refusal to initiate criminal investigation into Mr Edigov’s torture complaint, and this decision has already been appealed against.
Today the Chechen Supreme Court Judge German Aleksandrov found Suleiman Edigov guilty.
Lawyer working with the Joint Mobile Group, Anton Ryzhov: «Of course I feel immensely upset about the conviction and the sentence. In my legal practice, I have hardly ever come across a situation when so much evidence of torture is collected in court. More over, collected by Vakhid Abubakarov, Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic justice. In this context, the totally formalistic inquiries and contradictory conclusions of the Investigative Committee are unexplainable. I argue that, apart from the torture itself, the State has violated Suleiman’s right to a fair trial. According to the case-law of the ECHR, all testimonies «beaten out» of an individual are absolutely inadmissible as evidence in a criminal trial, and accepting such evidence makes the whole trial unfair, regardless of to what extent the judge refers to them in the decision. We intend to appeal before the Supreme Court of Russia. Let’s hope its decision will be just».