Ingush activist Magomed Khamkhoyev, convicted of inciting attacks on security forces during mass protests in Magas, was released on August 5 after a 28-month prison sentence.
At the entrance to pre-trial detention facility №12 in Pyatigorsk, known locally as the “White Swan” prison, the activist was met by his brothers Gelany Khamkhoyev and Magomed Shuturov and three activists who had already served their sentences: Bagaudin Myakiyev, Mustafa Vyshegurov and Ali Khamkhoyev. Gelanii Khamkhoyev, who was also convicted in the Ingush case and was released in February 2020, told Fortanga.
Magomed Khamkhoyev told Fortanga that he has not seen his children all this time, and that he has only seen his wife once in court. He said that he also missed his parents very much and that when he arrived home the first thing he planned to do was to visit his grandmother.
The White Swan prison in Pyatigorsk is known in the past as one of the harshest places of detention in Russia. Built in 1938, it was originally a shelter for political prisoners.
Magomed Khamkhoyev spoke about the respectful treatment in detention of those who had served their sentences in the rally case. “The conditions couldn’t be better! – Magomed smiled. – All the staff were communicating in ‘You’ terms. I can’t speak for everyone sitting there. But with us, who were sitting on the rally case, everyone was very polite, in all matters they were in contact. I can’t even make a small complaint about the SIZO. Conditions may have differed from year to year, but at the moment everything is fine. Both employees and we mutually respected the laws. Domesticly, everything was basically there. The hardest thing to bear was the fact that our sister Zarifa Sautieva and the elderly were sitting there. Our hands were tied, we can do nothing – it means that everything is by the will of Allah Almighty. So I guess it was meant to be.”
When asked with what feeling Magomed was going to be released, he replied that he was grateful to the Almighty for such an ordeal. “He has strengthened the iman(belief in the truth of Islam) in everything. Prison taught me a lot. Still, I don’t wish it on anyone. I personally benefited from the time I served there. Even in terms of health – I’ve been exercising. The only thing was that I had no one to share my health with,” Magomed laughs.
Khamkhoyev called the rally a “trumped-up case and complete lawlessness. “Russia has laws, but they are written in such a way that they can be circumvented,” he concluded.
Musa Khamkhoyev, the activist’s father, said that the convict’s family was having a hard time bearing the absence of their only breadwinner. “Of course there were problems. He has a wife and five children. The oldest is now thirteen years old. The youngest is three. None of them work. My pension is 12,900 rubles. That’s all! Somehow we survived. My relatives helped financially,” he said.
According to him, the children are proud of their father. “They were worried, of course. But everyone calmed them down, saying that your father was in jail because of the rally, that he had done nothing wrong, he was in jail by mistake. Everything was blamed on Evkurov(Yunus-Bek Evkurov, the former head of Ingushetia)! – Musa Khamkhoyev laughs. – “Your daddy’s a hero!” So they’re glad he’s a hero. Teachers at school also reassured the children, “Your daddy will come soon, it’s not his fault.”
Lawyers are preparing a complaint against the conviction of Magomed Khamkhoyev
Magomed Khamkhoyev was convicted in February 2021, at which time, taking into account the time served in the detention center, he was to spend another eight months in prison. “Since he has served his time in the pre-trial detention facility for familiarization with the materials and the time of the appeal hearing, he is released in connection with the time served,” lawyer Fatima Urusova explained to Fortanga.
She recalled that at the end of July, the Stavropol Territory Court upheld the appeal against Khamkhoyev’s sentence, leaving it in force. Lawyers Dzhabrail Kuriyev and Fatima Urusova plan to appeal the decision again in the Court of Cassation.
According to Fatima Urusova, the court ignored the testimony of 38 witnesses who stated that Khamkhoyev did not call for anything, and that they (the witnesses) did all the actions themselves. In addition, 25 witnesses were unlawfully warned in the trial court about criminal responsibility for false testimony, she believes. “25 of those 38 are people previously convicted in the same criminal case, who are given the status of ‘other participants in the process,'” the lawyer explained.
Khamkhoyev’s second lawyer, Dzhabrail Kuriyev, also disagrees with the court ruling. “We hold that the court improperly evaluated the testimony of witnesses. Thirty-eight witnesses is not one witness he can be critical of! There are conditions when the court must treat the testimony of witnesses critically. In this case the court justifies its critical attitude to the testimony of the thirty-eight witnesses of the defence only because it is consistent with the defendant’s position. There is no such wording in the CCP,” he explained to Fortanga.
The Stavropol Regional Court upheld the conviction of Magomed Khamkhoyev, a participant in the Magas rally. The defendant in the rally case was sentenced to 3.5 years in a general regime penal colony in February. In his last statement, he denied guilt.
His brother, Gelany Khamkhoyev, was also sentenced in February 2020 to nine months in a penal colony for his participation in the Magasas rally, Kavkazsky Uzel reported earlier.
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.