Today, on July 4 in the Urus-Martan City Court of the Chechen Republic judicial pleadings of the parties in the case of Ruslan Kutaev, a Chechen social activist and political figure, have taken place. The prosecutor requested 5-year prison term to be served in general regime (minimum security) penal colony to be imposed on the defendant. Ruslan Kutaev addressed the court with the last word. On Monday, July 7, the verdict will be announced.
As we have previously reported, Mr Kutaev is charged with criminal offenses under Article 228 (2) of Russian Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and possession of large quantity of drugs without intent to sell). Human rights defenders with the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) are convinced that the man is being persecuted for political reasons, and has given the self-incriminating statements under torture.
The Chechen authorities reject 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 of 1944), and argue that the prosecution of the 56-year-old Chechen politician is a standard and commonplace criminal case.
Apparently, the trial was planned to be as speedy as the preceding pre-trial investigation of the alleged serious criminal offense, which had been completed in record-breaking time. Nevertheless, the very first witnesses questioned in court made quite contradictory submissions, and in fact cast doubt over prosecution case, according to which the man had been arrested with three grams of heroin.
Kutaev repeatedly emphasized that he considered his case to be politically motivated: «…This is the way the Chechen authorities are hindering me from human rights activity… My opinion, which I express in public, differs from the officials’ one, and it irritates them. Nevertheless, this is not the main reason for my being prosecuted either.
…Lately, it has become a tendency in Russia that politicians and social activists who criticize the authorities are being discredited, and the Chechen Republic doesn’t make any exception… That is why the false charges with acquisition and possession of drugs and the criminal proceedings against me are mere vengeance for my political activity. This is the way they are intimidating other Chechen political and social activists and human rights defenders, who openly criticize the authorities…»
The verdict will be announced on Monday, July 7, at 3 p.m. in the Urus-Martan City Court of the Chechen Republic.