From the very beginning, the trial of the Magas protest leaders has been conducted in accordance with instructions received from above, despite the apparent innocence of the defendants, so no leniency can be expected from the court, according to the lawyers, defenders and public figures questioned by Fortanga.

The last hearing took place on December 6, and the verdict is scheduled for December 15, which means that the judge took just over a week to make a decision. The lawyer Magomed Bekov believes that such a term is sufficient for a conviction, but not enough for an acquittal, and indirectly indicates that the outcome of the case is predetermined.

«This time is too short for an acquittal, given the volume of criminal case materials — after all, the court needs to examine no less than 120 volumes, the defense debate, to evaluate all the evidence presented by the parties. But it is always easier for the court to write a guilty verdict than an acquittal, so a week for a guilty verdict is quite enough time for the judge, given that much will be taken by the court as a basis from the indictment,» he explained to Fortanga.

There is very little hope that the court will listen to its conscience and deliver an acquittal, because a verdict should be based on evidence, not supposition, Bekov said. «The judge’s reading (at the hearing) of the testimony given as witnesses by Malsagov and Barakhoyev during the preliminary investigation left me in no doubt that the outcome of the case would be accusatory, although there is still hope,» he added.

«It was clear from the beginning that everything was done for the sake of a guilty verdict, and the obvious innocence of our defendants does not bother them,» believes lawyer Magomed Abubakarov.

Former prisoner of the «rally case» Isropil Nalgiev also has no doubts about his political background. «We have all witnessed the absurd line of state prosecutors, built by them out of thin air, the entire credibility of which is based on the words of a couple of classified witnesses. We have seen the conclusions of expert examinations and the testimony of hundreds of witnesses who confirmed the groundlessness of the accusations,» he explained. The process does not work within a clear legislative framework, but swims according to the instructions received on a call «from above,» says Nalgiev.

He hopes that the defendants will be released taking into account the time already served in the detention center. «For innocent people, they’ve been in prison too long already. There is hope for a pragmatic calculation of the authorities. They must understand that as an act of intimidation this case is not working, and is only harming the state and worsening the attitudes of an entire people towards it. The happy conclusion of the Ingush case would be followed by a calming of the socio-political situation in the region,» says Nalgiyev.

Magomed Mutsolgov refused to predict the decision of the court. «The worst thing in our country today is that the vertical of power that has been built requires all officials, law enforcers and government representatives to carry out the tasks set by the leadership without regard to the law. The set task must be done, even if it is illegal, not part of your job description or exceeds your authority. What is even more terrible is that the suffering and lives of our fellow citizens do not matter,» he said.

«Judging by all the movements on the part of the prosecution, the reaction of the court, and the terms stated by the prosecutor, we can assume that the defendants will be given long sentences. But we hope that they will be acquitted and released from the courtroom,» said Askhab Goigov, chairman of the Nationwide Commission for the Review of Issues Relating to the Definition of Territories and Boundaries of Ingushetia. He noted that the defense team did a great job in proving the innocence of the defendants. «If the court goes along with the prosecution, supports the terms stated by the prosecution, this will be another blow to Russian justice, to the Constitution and civil society of the Russian Federation. And it will be another trauma to the Ingush people,» says Goygov.

«We are ready for any sentence — 9 years, 10 years. I don’t even rule out the possibility that they will give more than the prosecutor’s request,» said Ilez Barakhoyev, the public defender of his father Akhmed Barakhoyev. He told me that the other day he stopped by to see his father. «He (Akhmed Barakhoyev) is one hundred percent sure that they will get a long sentence. He’s ready for it and has a very positive attitude. In theory, I’m supposed to support him, but in fact he charges me (positive). And if someone at the top wanted to break them and teach them a lesson, they didn’t succeed,» said Ilez.

It is very difficult to predict the judicial outcome of such cases, said Ruslan Mutsolgov, public defender of Bagaudin Khautiev. «In the course of the trial, the defense completely refuted all the arguments of the accusation: on the organization of violence against security officers, on the extremist association, and on other charges. This case is based on the political will of the country’s leadership and the former leadership of the republic,» he said.

A very powerful campaign was unleashed against the seven protest leaders: fifty investigators from the investigation team, hundreds of security forces, over fifteen hundred searches with special forces and armored vehicles, and dozens of judges and detention centers from various southern regions of the country, Mutsolgov said. «They don’t want to let all this effort go to waste. It is clear that there will be a guilty verdict, and we have already heard the appetites of the prosecution, but there is always hope for the will of the Almighty,» he said.

The «rally case» represents a new type of criminal case, which will then spread to all of Russia, says lawyer Kaloy Ahilgov. «In Ingushetia, the law enforcement authorities used this case to test the structure and scheme for launching extremist criminal cases — precisely to create an extremist community retroactively,» he said in the video «The Ingush case. How an entire nation is being punished for being principled,» posted on November 24 on Novaya Gazeta’s Youtube channel.

Earlier, Isa Khamhoev, Mufti of Ingushetia, and the republic’s Alim had recorded a video appeal to the authorities asking them to pay attention to political prisoners in Ingushetia. The unfair verdict on the protesters could lead to popular unrest, theologians say.

We should remind you that political prisoners Akhmed Barakhoyev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiyev, Zarifa Sautiyeva, Malsag Uzhakhov, Bagaudin Khautiyev and Barakh Chemurziyev are on the dock. There is a separate trial for Akhmed Pogorov. All of them are accused of organizing the use of violence against law enforcement officers at a rally in Magas on March 27, 2019. The sentencing of the seven defendants is scheduled for December 15. Earlier, prosecutors had asked them for sentences of 7.5 to 9 years.

Mass protests have been taking place in Ingushetia since autumn 2018. The inhabitants of the republic opposed the agreement on the border with Chechnya. In March 2019, the rallies 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.

Mila Zwinkau.

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