At another hearing on the rally case, one of the key witnesses in the defense, former deputy ambassador to the Southern Federal District Musa Keligov, was questioned. In his speech he accused Yunus-Bek Yevkurov that the situation with border changes, including disturbances at the rallies, had been planned by him.

A number of key defense witnesses were questioned at the session on the rally case in Yessentuki court on 7 September. Askhab Goygov, former Minister of Property Relations and Deputy Prime Minister under Yevkurov, who was in charge of land issues, told the court that the transfer of land to Chechnya was an inappropriate decision, as the territory in question was historically Ingush. He also said that the defendants and other participants in the rally were making every effort to avoid conflict, lawyer Jabrail Kuriyev told Fortanga.

«Goygov said that he was on the square in front of the NTRC «Ingushetia» on March 26 and 27 and personally stopped the youth himself. He voiced a very important point as a witness: «Even if someone wanted to lead the actions of the crowd, it would have been impossible because the square is large and there are so many people. The witness confirmed that provocateurs acted in the square. According to him, from time to time three or four security officers ran into a perfectly calm crowd, which provoked people to show aggression. Goygov, like many others, confirmed that a flash-bang grenade was thrown into the crowd by security forces during morning prayers,» said Dzhabrail Kuriyev.

Yakub Gogiev, head of the Dzurdzuki historical and geographical society, said at the meeting that it was he who, through his Facebook post in August 2018, brought information to the Ingush public about what was happening on the Ingushetia-Chechnya border when Chechen security forces entered the territory of the Erzy reserve. This witness, who was present at the rally in Magas, also testified that the defendants did everything possible to prevent a conflict between the crowd and the security forces.

Musa Dudurgov, the imam of Barsuki village said that he participated in rallies in 2018-2019 because he disagreed with the agreement on border changes. This witness also gave a positive characteristic of his fellow villager, defendant Malsag Uzhakhov.

«In 15 years of serving as an imam, I have never once heard anyone say anything bad about them,» Dudurgov said. Being acquainted with the other defendants, he also characterized them extremely positively, said the lawyer.

Fortanga has at its disposal a video recording of the interrogation of Musa Keligov, one of the most important witnesses in the defense, the former deputy presidential envoy in the Southern Federal District. He made a statement that the clashes at the protests were originally planned by Yunus-Bek Yevkurov as a way to draw the attention of the federal centre away from the corruption schemes being implemented in the republic.

«Both then and today, I always knew that this whole provocation related to the establishment of the border was Evkurov’s idea. I myself talked to Evkurov before the meeting, before the signing. It was his personal provocation, it was all his idea together with Yevloyev, his then prime minister and Senator Khamchiyev. He had one aim. He misled the federal centre in order to divert its attention from the corruption schemes and crimes that were taking place in the republic at that time,» Keligov told the court.

The witness also said that in 2018 he met in Magas with General Trofimov from the central office of the FSB and explained to him the situation in Ingushetia.

«I told Trofimov that in his office Yevkurov told me personally in a conversation that if he had such opportunities as Ramzan Kadyrov had, he would personally execute 10,000 residents of Ingushetia and make the rest work like in 1937. His aides recorded all this conversation, uploaded it onto the Internet, and sent it to me. I can pass it on to any level,» Keligov said. The witness confirmed that his voice and Evkurov’s voice were recorded on this audio recording.

Keligov also claims that the highway leading to the Ekazhevsky circle, where the protesters moved on March 27, 2019, was blocked on Yevkurov’s instructions in order to aggravate the situation.

«I have my own source,» the witness said. — After the rally there was such an alleged rally on the federal highway. I can guarantee that the highway was blocked on Yevkurov’s orders. And up to now everyone keeps silent about it. None of those who blocked the road took part in the rally in Magas. I can confirm that, I have checked it. I gathered material specifically for the president of the country. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with him because of the pandemic.

When asked by lawyer Magomed Bekov whether Keligov had financed the Ingush protest rallies, Keligov answered in the negative. «How is it possible to finance the march of practically the entire Ingush people into the square? What kind of money is needed and what kind of power?» he stated.

Keligov gave a positive characteristic to Akhmed Pogorov who he personally proposed for the post of the Interior Minister and who is now also on trial as the leader of the Ingush protest. «A police colonel, a former minister of the republic’s Interior Ministry, a man who really risked his life many times when there was a real war there, when people like Yevkurov were afraid to show their heads in the republic, is being tried today for telling the truth,» the witness said.

He noted that he was preparing an information letter for the president of the country and promised to send this letter and an audio recording of his conversation with Evkurov to the court. «I will still bring this truth to the president of the country, I give you my word,» the witness said.

When the defendant Bagaudin Khautiev was asked whether Keligov knew him, he answered in the negative. Hautiyev explained to the court that his question was not accidental: during the first 4-5 days after his arrest he was subjected to pressure in order to extort evidence against Keligov. «Then they asked me to at least say that I wanted to see this man as president of the republic. That was already enough for them. It was Yevkurov’s personal score, most likely,» Bagaudin Khautiev said.

Keligov also said that he got to know Akhmed Barakhoyev some thirty years ago, when he was a big boss. He rejected information contained in Center E’s characterization that in 1997-98 Barakhoyev had borrowed from him and still owed him 500,000 rubles. «I never had any financial relationship with Ahmed,» the witness said.

At the request of the defence, a video was examined, where Yunus-Bek Evkurov instructs the secretary of the Security Council to put the organizers of the rally in jail.

As a reminder, since autumn 2018, rallies have been held in Magas against the agreement, under which a large part of Ingushetia was given to Chechnya. 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. Eightprotest leadersare currently in the dock, including former Ingush Interior Minister Akhmed Pogorov, who is being tried separately. On 1 September, at the trial of the seven leaders, two witnesses and the translation of the speeches at the rally confirmed the innocence of the defendants.

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