The Krasnodar District Court declared the refusal of the investigators to declare the wife of the 1Adat Telegram-channel chat moderator Salman Tepsurkayev (they concluded a religious marriage under Muslim customs) to be a victim on the criminal case on Salman’s abduction. According to the investigators and the judge, Elizaveta cannot be called a connected person with the abducted.
As we have previously reported, on 6 September 2020, Salman Tepsurkayev was abducted in Gelendzhik. He was a chat moderator of 1Adat Telegram channel which informs about violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic. Witnesses report that the abductors presented their IDs of the Ministry of the Interior officers. For twenty-four hours there was no information about the fate of Salman. But in the evening of 7 September, his phone was turned on again and the relatives managed to obtain his geolocation data, according to which Salman’s phone was on the territory of regiment of the Patrol-Guard Service of the Police named after Akhmat Kadyrov located in Grozny.
On the same day, 7 September, a person under nickname “Hunter” published a video in the chat of 1Adat Telegram-channel, in which Salman Tepsurkayev curses himself and his channel in the Chechen language, after that he attempts to sit on a glass bottle.
On 11 September, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture submitted an application to the ECHR with regard to the violation of Tepsurkayev’s rights, provided by Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: “prohibition of torture” and ‘right to personal integrity”. Human rights defenders requested that the Court applied “Rule 39” and demanded from the Russian Federation to take provisional measures to establish the whereabouts of Tepsurkayev, as well as to ensure the guarantee of his release and safety.
According to the information, published on the website of the Ministry of Justice of Russia, on 22 October, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the application submitted by human rights defenders.
On 14 September, human rights defenders applied with crime reports on behalf of Salman Tepsurkayev’s wife to the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Chechen Republic and to the Investigative Department for Gelendzhik of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Krasnodar Territory.
In addition, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture conducted their own public investigation, during which they managed to obtain convincing evidence of the law-enforcement bodies’ involvement in Tepsurkayev’s disappearance. Human rights defenders provided the investigators with a video record which features Tepsurkayev’s abduction process, as well as the data on vehicles and the abductors who were filmed by the video camera at the place of the incident. In the course of public investigation, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture managed to find out that one of the cars belongs to the acting police officer from Chechnya.
On 15 October, investigators from the Krasnodar Territory made a decision to hand over the evidence that they collected to the Investigative Department for Chechnya due to the fact that the car of Tepsurkayev’s assumed abductors crossed the boundary of the Chechen Republic. On the same day, on 15 October, the investigator with the Chechen Investigative Department dismissed the claim to open a criminal case referring to absence of a criminal event.
On 29 October, head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for the Chechen Republic Adlan Lepiyev returned a part of the material of the check that concerned Tepsurkayev’s abduction, to his colleagues from the Krasnodar Territory. In addition, the Chechen investigators continued to conduct a check of the report on applying violence against Tepsurkayev on the territory of the Republic. By the present time, the Chechen investigators have issued four dismissals of claims to open a criminal case.
On 8 February 2021, the last dismissal of the investigator was quashed by the Prosecutor’s Office. In his ruling, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic pointed out that the materials of the check should be transferred to the Investigative Department for the Krasnodar Territory, since Salman Tepsurkayev was last seen there, and, in addition, the information on possible detention of Salman at the law-enforcement bodies of the Republic was disproved during the check by the Investigative Department of the Chechen Republic.
On 25 February, investigator Lepiyev issued a ruling on transferring the materials of the check with regard to Tepsurkayev’s abduction to the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for the Krasnodar Territory, having explained that the place of abduction was Gelendzhik, and on 27 November 2020 a criminal case was opened at the Investigative Department for Gelendzhik with regard to the element of crime under item “a” of Part 2, Article 126 of the Criminal Code of the RF (‘abduction of a person committed by a group of persons by previous concert”).
Salman has a wife, Elizaveta, they lived together after marrying according to Muslim customs, but did not have time to register their marriage at the Civil Registry Office due to quarantine measures applied in March 2020.
Despite numerous evidence of close relationships between Tepsurkayev and Elizaveta – that they lived as a husband and a wife, in December 2020, investigators with the Investigative Department for Gelendzhik dismissed Elizaveta’s claim to declare her a victim in the criminal case on the grounds that she was a live-in girlfriend and did not register a marriage with Tepsurkayev, that is why she was not his connected person.
Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture appealed against this ruling, first at the Gelendzhik City Court of the Krasnodar Territory, and then – at the Krasnodar Territorial Court.
On 15 April, the Krasnodar Territorial Court dismissed the appellate appeal and upheld the investigators’ ruling which dismissed the claim to declare Elizaveta a victim.
“The Criminal and Procedural Code has a notion of “connected persons”. It covers the people, the life, the health and the well-being of which a victim values due to the developed personal relationships. We are convinced that Elizaveta, that was living together with victim Salman and was engaged in a religious marriage with the latter, is his connected person, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Leisan Mannapova comments. – In addition, investigators on the criminal case are ignoring the specific character of the region. In Chechnya, the religious marriage is much more widely spread than the official marriage and is considered to be vital for the marriage partners to be able to live together. We shall certainly appeal against the court ruling and will be insisting on declaring Elizaveta a victim”.