Two defense witnesses were questioned today at the Yessentuki court hearing on the rally case and a motion to attach to the case a translation of the defendants’ speeches on the morning of March 27, 2019 in Magas Square was investigated, public defender Magomed Kuriyev said.

Several defence motions were raised at the hearing. Only one was resolved on the merits, as the prosecutor needed time to prepare his opinion. «A motion was investigated to attach to the case the translation of the defendants’ speeches on the morning of March 27, 2019 in the square in Magas. These speeches, in which they tried to reduce the arising tension and prevent violent acts, are on the video, which has already been attached to the criminal case file at the initiative of the prosecution, but they required translation,» explained the defence counsel. — The court rightly noted that there was no point in watching this video, in which the defendants were speaking in the Ingush language. The translation of the key moments of these speeches, which confirm the side of the defence, was made by a qualified specialist, certified accordingly, and has been added to the case today.

Kuriyev said that these translations show that Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Barakh Chemurziev, Bagaudin Khautiev and Ismail Nalgiev were calling on the citizens, who were on the square in front of the NTRC «Ingushetia», to be patient, calm and not give way to provocation and not to actively resist law enforcement officers.

After lunch, two defence witnesses were questioned. «One of them, an active participant in the two-week rally in the fall of 2018, described how the protest action began and how from the very beginning the protest leaders were in contact with the authorities, trying to ensure order and discipline and to prevent unlawful actions by the protesters. This witness reported that many high-ranking law enforcement officials were in personal contact with our defendants and provided assistance with everything, including sanctioning the rallies. Although this witness spoke about the October rallies, but the same high-ranking officials also appeared during the March 2019 events, which can be seen, including from the video footage in the case,» said the defence counsel.

According to him, the testimony of a second witness, who was an intermediary in organizing meetings between this active participant in the rally and representatives of the senior staff of the Interior Ministry, confirmed the words of the first witness.

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. Eightprotest leadersare currently in the dock, including former Ingush Interior Minister Akhmed Pogorov, who is being tried separately. On 31 August, a witness said that the rally was provoked by the absence of a paragraph in the new law «On Referendum» about the need for a popular vote in case of changes in Ingushetia’s borders.

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