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Woman’s ‘abduction’ came as part of ongoing persecution of human right defenders and their family members in Chechnya, according to Brussels
The EU has urged Russia to release the mother of exiled human-rights activist Zarema Musayeva, who had been allegedly seized by Chechen law enforcement officers earlier this week, and to investigate what it is calling an “abduction.”
Musayeva’s “violent detention and forceful transfer to Chechnya” has become yet another example of “unlawful actions towards Chechen human rights defenders and their relatives” in Russia’s southern republic, a statement issued by the EU on Saturday read.
Brussels said it “calls on the Russian authorities to release Ms Musayeva” and to investigate her “abduction” as well as all other cases of “extrajudicial executions, torture and other grave human rights violations” that, the EU is claiming, have been committed in Chechnya in the past several years.
Musayeva is the wife of former Chechen High Court judge Saidi Yangulbayev and mother to Abubakar Yangulbayev, who used to be a lawyer for the ‘Committee Against Torture, a group that investigated alleged human rights violations in Chechnya.
Abubakar Yangulbayev quit his job and left Russia in December last year after being questioned by Chechen police as a witness in a case about the justification of terrorism.
According to media reports, masked men, who identified themselves as law-enforcement officers from Chechnya, made their way into the apartment of Saidi Yangulbayev and Musayeva late on Thursday, in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga River.
They allegedly told the couple that they had to be urgently delivered to Chechnya’s capital Grozny, as witnesses in a fraud investigation.
The family’s lawyer was able to arrive on site swiftly, explaining to the officers that, despite having retired as a judge, Yangulbayev still enjoyed protections and couldn’t be detained without a special procedure. So, the men took his wife instead and drove her in an unknown direction, according to the media.
Some outlets said that Musayeva had been unconscious when she was put in a car and that the 52-year-old had also been deprived of vital diabetes drugs. On Saturday, the woman denied these reports, telling a Chechen ombudsman that no violence had been used against her and that the police had provided her with the required medicine.
The ‘Committee Against Torture,’ designated a foreign agent in Russia and currently operating without a license, has filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights over Musayeva’s “forceful detention.” Yangulbayev suggested that his wife was taken because of the activities of their son, and that the fraud case was just a cover up.
When asked on Friday about the reports of Musayeva’s alleged “abduction,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that it was sort of “a surreal story” that needed to be verified first. In any case, it was matter for Russia’s law enforcement to resolve, he pointed out. “If there were some statements to the police then the police must already be working on it,” Peskov added.
Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Tatiana Moskalkova, later said that a probe should be initiated to find out if the Chechen officers had been authorized to operate outside of their jurisdiction, and whether Musayeva was really subpoenaed by investigators in Grozny.
The head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov has written a fiery post on Telegram about the whole debacle, claiming that the actions of the Chechen police were lawful and coordinated with their colleagues in Nizhny Novgorod, and that Musayeva had been subpoenaed three times previously, but had refused to comply.
According to Kadyrov, the woman also attacked a police officer while in the Chechen capital, nearly depriving him of an eye, which was already enough to file criminal charges against her.
As for the Yangulbayevs, the whole family has been responsible for smearing the people of Chechnya through taking part in the activities of a banned opposition channel on Telegram, he insisted.
“In any case, I tell you that this family will either end up in prison or in the ground. And that’s not up to me,” Kadyrov wrote.