Saratov Regional Court refused to change the preventive punishment for five Chechen and Ingush natives in the case of attack on police officers on Kirov Avenue. The defendants were victims of law enforcers’ misconduct, but witnesses are afraid to testify against law enforcers, lawyers said.
The incident occurred on the night of July 23 to 24 in the center of the city on Kirov Avenue, where there are many cafes, restaurants and drinking places. According to the investigation, four law enforcers were patrolling the street and saw two young people in conflict with each other. They tried to intervene, but were beaten by one of the companies – young people from Chechnya and Ingushetia. The enforcers sustained injuries, including one who cut his hand with a knife, investigators say. All police officers are hospitalized. The fight was stopped by riot police who arrived at the scene, and five young men, two of them minors, were detained.
Defence alleges severe beating of young men
According to the defense and the accused, five young people – students and applicants aged 17-19 – were walking along the Kirov Avenue with three friends, two 17-year-old and 18-year-old natives of Saratov, to pick up a kitten from their acquaintances. The two teenagers were walking a little away and were suddenly confronted by two men coming around the corner, one of whom was carrying a bottle of beer. A verbal conflict ensued. During the argument, one of the men hit the minor in the face with his fist, Albakov’s lawyer Yulia Alikova said.
The other guys tried to stand up for their comrade, but four other men in their forties attacked them with shouting, the lawyer pointed out. They started beating the teenagers, threw them on the ground and sat on top of them. “Naturally, the boys resisted. One of them had his face cut open right away”, Alikova explained.
According to her, the girls were also badly injured during the conflict, they have bruises and abrasions. A forensic medical examination documented their injuries, Alikova said.
“When Mohammad was already lying on the ground and they kept beating him, one of the girls lay down and covered him with herself. She also had injuries. She was then taken by ambulance to the city clinic hospital… She is now seeing a child psychologist and is being treated by neurologists,” said the lawyer.
When riot police arrived, the girls and young men started calling for their help, but the officers did not respond to their call. “They (the young guys) were very severely beaten … put their foot on the neck of the handcuffed children,” the defender said.
A video titled “In Saratov, four police officers were hospitalized after an attack,” published on Ren-TV’s website, shows people lying on the ground, groans and screams can be heard, and uniformed people walking around.
Then they were taken to the force department. “The boys were beaten, tortured with tasers, and gags were put in their mouths. They were not allowed to drink or go to the bathroom. My client has at least 24 injuries […] At the same time he does not receive any medical care”, – said the lawyer.
Alikova said that on 26 July she saw the defendant in the detention center. “He (Albakov) looked like he was hit by a car […] Hematomas everywhere,” she added.
According to the lawyer, Albakov had a whole range of pains and problems in the pre-trial detention facility. “Shortly before, he underwent surgery on his chest for suspected cancer. He is unable to walk because he received severe blows to his knee with a damaged meniscus during the fight. But there has been no response so far to our requests for tests,” she said.
Two minors, Magomed* and Alan*, sustained the most bodily injuries during the beating, but they do not require medical assistance in pre-trial detention, Legkova said. “My client Ramzan* has a hand tremor because of a concussion. I went to see him a week after the incident and he can’t write,” she said.
The defender of the second juvenile participant of the incident Alan*
noted that in the pre-trial detention facility his client Alan* is periodically bothered by headaches and dizziness. “For a 17-year-old boy, being in a detention center is torture, as we also stated in the court hearing on the appeal against the decision on the election of the preventive measure, and in the petition to the investigator,” said the lawyer.
Lawyers told about pressure on detainees
All those involved in the incident with the young boys were dressed in civilian clothes, did not introduce themselves and showed no identification, according to Larisa Legkova, lawyer of 17-year-old Magomed*.
The boys only found out about the conflict with law enforcement officers at the station, Alikova said. The second company of conflicting young men, the investigation said, consisted of law enforcers in plain clothes, she said.
“Only the riot police, who arrived a little later, were wearing uniforms. We confirm that the scuffle of our defendants took place with people in civilian clothes. I want to draw particular attention to the fact that we’re talking about “skinny” 17-19-year-old children … All, like one, claim that when the uniformed riot police appeared, they immediately fell to the ground, obeying the demands of the men in uniform, and did not resist”, – said the defender of the second minor participant in the incident Alan* the lawyer
According to Alikova, during the initial investigative actions on July 24, pressure was put on Albakov, and she herself, despite the agreement and the warrant, was not allowed to see him for another three days.
Alikova also said that Albakov was tricked into signing a waiver of an interpreter, even though he has a poor command of Russian, a statement about the refusal of other lawyers than the one invited by the investigator, although his mother had already signed a contract with a lawyer under the agreement, and a protocol stating that he had a knife.
His underage girlfriend Zukhra* was intimidated into confirming that Albakov had a knife, the lawyer claims. “She refused and was not questioned… And none of the three girls have been questioned so far, although they are direct witnesses. But now they are looking for random people”, – Alikova said indignantly.
There was no knife and Albakov could not hide it or give it to his girlfriend because she was taken to the police station with him, the lawyer says. He questioned whether the injury on the enforcer’s arm was caused by a knife.
At the court hearing on the adoption of a preventive measure was attended only by a public lawyer, she did not appeal against the detention order, explaining this by the fact that Mokhmud wishes to remain in pre-trial detention, said Alikova. She did not give the ruling to her family until the appeal period expired, she claims.
Four lawyers of the defendants wrote complaints about the violation of the constitutional right to defense, in which they asked to exclude the protocols of night interrogations as inadmissible evidence, because the defendants had not given their consent to the interrogations at night.
The Court of Appeal ignored the defence’s arguments
On August 12 Saratov regional court approved the decision of Frunzensky district court which ruled on July 24 to put five natives of the North Caucasus in custody for two months accused of using violence dangerous to the health of the representative of authority (part 2 of article 318 of the RF Criminal Code). The court refused to change their preventive measure on the grounds that the accused have Chechen registration and may abscond. According to Issa Tarshkhoev, the lawyer of Ibrahim Karnakaev, three of the accused (17-year-old Alan*, 18-year-old Ibrahim Karnakaev and 17-year-old Magomed*) have permanent registration in the Chechen Republic, while 19-year-old Mokhmad Albakov and 19-year-old Aliskhan Albakov are registered in the Sunzhensky district of Ingushetia.
“You can’t actually substitute the preventive measure with the measure of punishment, being guided by the fact that they are registered in Chechnya and can hide somewhere. We drew the court’s attention to this point both in appointing the preventive measure and in appealing against it, but it did not take it into account. Now we are forced to appeal to the third instance, the court of cassation,” said Larisa Legkova.
The court also failed to take into account the fact that the two defendants are minors, to whom, according to the decision of the plenum of the Supreme Court, preventive measures in the form of detention should be applied only in exceptional cases, she said.
The lawyer said that all of the defendants came from well-to-do families. “Relatives of my client [Magomed*] live and work in Saratov, they have private property here, registration, they are officially employed or study in the city. In addition, he has a temporary registration in Saratov college dormitory”, – said Legkova.
“These are very pious guys. I made inquiries to the mosque, where they were characterized very well,” Alikova added. – They don’t consume alcohol in principle”.
According to Alikova, Magomed’s parents* brought letters of commendation from the orphanage he was helping, characterization from the mosque, place of residence, school, place of work and stood with them in front of the court building to the trial on a measure of restraint. “The lawyer [by appointment] told them that they didn’t need anything. But when choosing a preventive measure, the materials characterizing the personality are very important”, – explains the defender.
“The main reason for imposing a preventive measure in the form of detention is the charge of a serious crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and [allegations] of the investigation about the possibility of the accused to put pressure on witnesses and escape from the investigation. At the same time, there are no facts confirming that my client may abscond or influence witnesses, the investigation and the victims,” Skorikov said.
The court also ignored the existence of a rented apartment, which the legal representative of the minor (the father) together with the Chechen representative for the Saratov region had rented, the lawyer said. According to him, there was a consent from the owner for Alan* to live in this apartment when the measure of restraint was changed for him. The personal guarantee of the Chechen leader’s representative in the Saratov region also went unnoticed, he said.
Witnesses are afraid to testify
According to Legkova, the defense has no problems with finding witnesses, as Kirov Avenue in Saratov is a crowded, busy place, but witnesses are afraid to give truthful testimony against law enforcers, she said. The defense will apply for the witnesses to be put under the state protection, in which case they will testify impersonally, the lawyer said.
The only people who have agreed to be witnesses in the case are the defendants’ girlfriends, Legkova said. The lawyer said that the girls had already testified on the lawyer’s interview forms. However, the investigation has not yet interviewed them.
Two of the three girls have written a statement to the prosecutor asking him to check the actions of law enforcers, the lawyer said.
* The names ofthe minors have been changed