The text of the indictment was accepted almost in its entirety into the verdict, which is a serious violation, said the defenders of those convicted in the “Ingush case,” commenting on the motivation for the court’s decision. The court did not take into account a single mitigating circumstance and misinterpreted the defense evidence, they said.
Defenders of Ingush activists told Fortanga that they received the motivation for the verdict on December 20.
The first thing that catches the eye is that the text of the indictment was almost entirely transferred to the verdict, including incorrect punctuation marks, said lawyer Askhab Uzhakhov.
“There is an introductory part in the indictment – the accusation. These approximately one hundred sheets were copied and pasted into the verdict,” explained lawyer Jabrail Kuriyev .
Copying the indictment in the verdict is one of the fundamental violations that could lead to the cancellation of the sentence, said lawyer Magomed Bekov.
“This is reflected in the Supreme Court Plenum’s ruling on judicial sentencing. Also, Article 303 of the RF CCP (on the drafting of the verdict) states that the verdict shall be stated in the language in which the trial was conducted. It does not say that the sentence is copied from the indictment,” explained the lawyer.
“The motivation part of the verdict contains many legal constructions, which caused me deep bewilderment,” said lawyer Bilan Dzugaev. – The verdict is largely based on assumptions or conclusions that are not supported by the materials of the case. There are phrases in there that the court should not have used. For example, the absence of an indication of the time when the crime was committed, i.e. the time when Sautieva joined the extremist community, indicates not that the investigation was incomplete, but that this community was well conspirated. Such things cannot be written in the verdict, especially if there is no evidence that some kind of undercover work actually took place. Although, perhaps for them, correspondence on WhatsApp is a sign of conspiratorial work. It’s strange for me as a lawyer to read all this.
Dzugaev considers the verdict to be extremely inhumane also because the judge did not take into account a single mitigating circumstance. “It’s rare, it’s out of general judicial practice in Russia. Judges almost always take mitigating circumstances into account, and in this case there are many,” he said.
Uzhakhov believes that the judge in the verdict completely ignored the meticulous work of the defense and followed the path set by the preliminary investigation. “The indictment is contradictory and confusing, it contains a lot of information that does not correspond to reality,” he said. – These are some fantasies, mirages of the investigators, which were then embodied in a procedural document – the indictment, based on which the verdict was rendered. The purpose of the defense was to provide the maximum amount of evidence, which would allow the judge to compare it with the evidence of the prosecution and to get a deep and comprehensive understanding of the situation. But the judge simply put the mirages and frightening images described by the investigators in the indictment in a more sophisticated way in the verdict. And he even managed to give a completely different meaning to the evidence of the defense, to interpret it in such a way that it allegedly confirmed the guilt of the defendants. Some of the evidence presented by the defense, he presents as evidence for the prosecution!”
Thus, the Teip Council’s request to the law enforcement agencies to monitor its activities is interpreted by the judge as an attempt by the defendant to provide himself with an alibi, Uzhakhov said. “Around January 2019, the Teip Council sent letters to the CPE, the FSB, and the Prosecutor’s Office of Ingushetia asking for assistance in preventing extremist offenses,” the lawyer says. – Roughly speaking, they asked for one staff member each who would periodically attend meetings of the Teip Council and monitor its activities for potential violations of the law. The Council of the Teips worked within the law as it was; this letter was sent in view of the inspections and administrative offence reports that had begun at that time. The very fact of sending such a letter is, in my opinion, an unprecedented step. There is hardly a public organization in Russia that would directly write to the FSB and the CTE asking for an officer and assistance in the prevention of offenses, including those of an extremist nature. But this act was interpreted by the judge in a peculiar way. They say, yes, letters were sent, but only Uzhakhov and Barakhoyev were members of the extremist community from the Teip Council. The other members of the Teip Council were unaware that they were part of an extremist community and that these letters were sent to give the appearance of legitimacy to their actions. It was as if these letters were sent not to avoid wrongdoing, but to create the appearance of legitimate action.
But even if we agree with this version, it turns out that these law enforcement agencies had a great opportunity to openly infiltrate the extremist community and see if there are prerequisites for extremism there. They had to take this chance and thus gather operational material to support the accusation. Only the CPE responded to all of these letters, and his employee still attends meetings of the Teip Council periodically, and he had no questions about his activities,” he said.
On his Facebook page, Magomed Bekov posted an excerpt from the reasoning section of the verdict, in which the judge, referring to the presumption of innocence, charged the defense with refuting the prosecution’s evidence according to some “standard of minimal reasonableness. “The said principle [of presumption of innocence], as aimed at protecting the rights, freedoms and legally protected interests of the accused, does not yet mean that the defense is exempt from any obligation to reasonably justify its arguments aimed at protecting the suspect or the accused. Such arguments, in any case, should meet the standard of “minimal reasonableness” of the existence of certain circumstances or facts refuting the charge. Meanwhile, the specified version of the defense does not even reach this minimum standard…,” he wrote.
“This means that the court is placing the onus on the defense to prove the innocence of the defendants, under a minimum standard of reasonableness that Article 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does not provide. It’s a reality, it’s not a dream. Keep in mind, if your guilt is not proven and you could not by the “minimum standard of reasonableness . . prove your innocence, then you can just forget about the presumption of innocence!” – the lawyer sronicized.
Attorneys are waiting for court records
Earlier, lawyers said they would appeal the verdict in the appellate and cassation courts. Until then, however, they have a lot of work to do.
“First of all, we have to look carefully at the verdict. It is voluminous – 363 pages. You can’t absorb it all at once, you have to go into what the court is saying,” said lawyer Bashir Tochiev. – You also need to study the minutes of the court session. The lawyer said that Akhmed Barakhoyev and his defenders have already filed an appeal, but it will be supplemented after the verdict and the protocol of the court session are studied.
The defender is filing an appeal on behalf of his client, Bekov said.
“The trial transcripts will be ready after January 14. Until we get them, we can’t prepare full motivated complaints,” he explained.
According to Bekov, “the ten days allowed by law after the announcement of the verdict, as a rule, are not enough to file a detailed appeal, given the volume of the verdict itself and the volume of the trial record,” so a brief complaint is filed first.
“In practice, it is possible to extend the deadline for filing an appeal. As a rule, a brief complaint is filed without any motivation that we do not agree with the verdict in order to extend the period of appeal. In some regions the courts consider the complaint and decide to return this complaint back to the defense, giving time to file a full complaint and eliminate the violations committed when filing it […] In our case, the deadline is extended by the court and without returning the filed brief complaints. Until the comments on the trial record are reviewed, the court has no right to send the case with appeals to the court,” explained Bekov.
Lawyers are analyzing the minutes of the trial, comparing the transcript with the audio recording, he said. “The court attached an audio transcript to the transcript, but each defender made his own audio recording. If the essence of the protocol is conveyed incorrectly, some key points are distorted, then within three days after receiving the protocol to the same court comments on it are filed. The judge considers them and either certifies these comments or rejects them by his ruling. Only after all the comments on the record of the trial are considered, the materials of the criminal case together with the appeals can go to court,” he said.
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. A total of 46 people were arrested, most of them receiving real sentences on charges of violence against authorities. Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Zarifa Sautieva, Malsag Uzhakhov, Bagaudin Khautiev and Barakh Chemurziev, also detained in the rally case, were charged with extremism. On December 15, the Kislovodsk city court sentenced them to terms from 7.5 to 9 years in prison.