Today at the session on the rally case in Yessentuki City Court seven defence witnesses were heard. All of them did not confirm the accusation that the protest leaders in Magas had called for violence.

«All the witnesses questioned were elderly members of the Teip Council who were present in the square in Magas on the night of March 26 to 27, 2019. All of them confirmed the innocence of the defendants and testified that there were no calls for violence from their side. On the contrary, according to witnesses, only the actions of the defendants and other members of the Teip Council guaranteed to keep people peaceful,» lawyer Aralbek Dumanishev, who represents the interests of Musa Malsagov and Bagaudin Khautiev in court under an agreement with the «Legal Initiative» told Fortanga*.

According to Dumanishev, witnesses characterized the defendants as law-abiding, respectable people with an excellent reputation who are respected in Ingush society. All of them denied that the defendants had created an extremist group, which is what Malsag Uzhakhov, Musa Malsagov and Akhmed Barakhoev are accused of.

«When asked by the prosecution about ‘leadership’, all the witnesses clearly stated that there were no ‘protest leaders’. «Everyone who came out in the square was his own leader and did it on his own initiative,» was the thought in all the speeches. Each family was affected by the signed Redistricting Agreement. The Ingush society protested against <…> the government’s actions,» the lawyer explained.

The court session lasted four hours. It was attended by relatives of the defendants and a support group.

The next meeting will be held on August 4. The defence witnesses will also be questioned.

Rallies against the Ingushetia-Chechnya border agreement have been held in Magas since autumn 2018. In March 2019, they turned into clashes with security forces and detentions of activists. Most of those arrested in the aftermath of those events received real sentences on charges of violence against public officials. Eight protest leaders are currently in the dock, including former Ingush Interior Minister Akhmed Pogorov, who is being tried separately. On 20 July, the arrest of the seven leaders was extended until November. On 27 July, four defence witnesses spoke at the trial. They were all unanimous in their testimony: there are innocent people in the dock; and the true lawbreakers who signed the redistricting agreement are at large.

* The organization is included by the Russian Ministry of Justice in the register of NGO-no-agents.

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