A year after the arrest of the protest leaders, it has become clear that the case has no legal basis; it is purely political, said Fatima Urusova, the lawyer of Akhmed Barakhoyev, who was sentenced to nine years in prison. Barakhoyev himself said right after his arrest that he would not return home sooner than in eight years, she said.

“People are being held accountable for the authority of their opinion, for freedom of speech, which, according to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, they have actually exercised. Of course, it became clear that this was a demonstration. It was obvious to all the lawyers, to the residents of Ingushetia, it was known to many residents of Kabardino-Balkaria,” said the lawyer.

The defendant Akhmed Barakhoyev enjoyed authority and was able to prevent the first confrontation with the law enforcers, Urusova said. The lawyer added that at the time of the second clash, which was the reason for the criminal case, Barakhoyev was absent from the square.

“He withdrew and returned to the square when the sound design just became audible. […] And he came back already during the clash, and again, all his actions were aimed at preventing any violent actions. In fact – this is the man who led people away from the square, the man who was approached by the heads of law enforcement agencies. […] He was asked not to leave the square, because he was the one who could get people out of there and keep the peace, and he did it in the end,” she said.

The lawyer recalls that on April 5, 2019, when there was still no prerequisite for a criminal case and everyone was waiting for him to be released on April 13, Barahoev predicted the outcome.

“Prepare yourself and prepare my relatives that it won’t end quickly. I won’t be back home before eight years from now. On April 5, 2019, it sounded unrealistic. Now that the court has sentenced him to nine years, I remember his words very often. […] This is not the end of the fight,” she concluded.

Recall that mass protests have been taking place in Ingushetia since the fall of 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.

Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Zarifa Sautieva, Malsag Uzhakhov, Bagaudin Khautiev and Barakh Chemurziev were charged with extremism. On December 15, the Kislovodsk city court sentenced them to terms from 7.5 to 9 years in prison. There is a separate trial for Akhmed Pogorov.

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