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Russian rights group accuses authorities of torturing businessman in Kabardino-Balkaria

7 August 2019
Ruslan Kasheshov (Memorial)

Rights group Memorial has published a report detailing the alleged torture of a local businessman in the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in the summer of 2018.

On 29 July, Memorial published information that Ruslan Kasheshov, a 32-year-old businessman from Kabardino-Balkaria, applied to the group for assistance in 2018.

Memorial cited Kasheshov as saying that on the evening of 22 June 2018, his car was stopped by traffic police in the Republic’s capital, Nalchik, and that he was then detained by masked men in camouflage uniforms.

According to Kasheshov, immediately after his arrest, one of the masked men demanded he admit that illegal items they had claimed to have found while searching his car belonged to him, threatening to ‘find something’ at his parents’ house if he refused.

According to Memorial, the district police claimed to have found drugs and a grenade on Kasheshov. 

Kasheshov said that after being searched, the security forces took him to the Centre for Combating Extremism where they forced him to confess that he was a member of the Islamic State.

Caucasian Knot cited Memorial as saying that the security forces beat and tortured Kasheshov with electric shocks and extracted confessions from him that ‘the grenade and drugs found in his possession were received from a militant’, whom he helped with money.

Traces of torture and a false witness

After the registration of detention with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kasheshov was placed in pre-trial detention and charged with illegal trafficking of explosives and drugs on a large scale, as well as aiding and abetting the activities of a terrorist organisation.

According to his lawyer, Kyazim Atabiyev, ‘on the day of detention, 23 June 2018, Kasheshov wrote an appeal to the Investigative Committee of Kabardino-Balkaria that his confession was extracted through torture, and he retracted his confession’.

A forensic examination conducted in June 2018 recorded multiple bruises on Kasheshov’s chest, arms, and legs. Employees at the Center for Combating Extremism told the Investigative Committee that they had to use force against Kesheshov after he tried to escape during his arrest.

Atabiyev told OC Media that in June 2018, he filed a complaint to Kabardino–Balkaria’s Investigative Committee regarding the ‘illegal actions by law enforcement officers’.

Atabiyev said that a lawyer from Memorial successfully overturned a ruling by Nalchik City Court not to commence criminal proceedings against employees of the Centre for Combatting Extremism who, according to Kasheshov, planted drugs on him and tortured him.

In April 2019, Memorial suggested that the charges against Kasheshov had been falsified with the testimony of a false witness.

The group said that testimony from a ‘secret witness’ that formed the basis for the authorities’ claims that Kasheshov was a member of an illegal armed group was perjured.

The witness, who claimed to be a friend of Kasheshov’s, said Kasheshov had told him that he helped militants by transporting them and supplying them with money and then attempted to recruit him. 

On 30 April, Kasheshov applied to the Investigative Committee of Kabardino-Balkaria to bring criminal charges against the witness for giving false testimony, after he saw documents from investigators revealing the identity of the witness, whom he had never met.

The Investigative Committee refused to consider the application, indicating that only the court could establish perjury while examining the merits of the case. The committee also initiated a procedural audit to establish the circumstances of the leaked information about the witness.

Confession ‘through torture’

‘All charges against Ruslan Kasheshov are based on the testimony he gave after being tortured, which he then retracted, and on perjury. Consequently, Kasheshov should be released from custody unconditionally and the charges against him should be dropped’, Atabiyev told OC Media.

According to him, the investigation is also evading a series of examinations requested by the defence, including the forensic testing of the grenade.

Atabiev told OC Media that Kasheshov was ‘perplexed’ as to why he was targetted and suggested that it could be related to his business. According to Atabiev, Kasheshov is the co-owner of several sushi bars in Nalchik.

Olga Efendiyeva, co-founder of Circassian organisation Zhegu (‘hearth’), told OC Media that ‘given the success of public activists in the case of Ivan Golunov and with the positive progress in the case of Martin Kochesoko, the relatives and the defence have hopes that public opinion and liberal media will be able to turn the tide in the case of Ruslan Kasheshov’.

[Read from the OC Media editorial board: Editorial | I/We are Golunov, and Geriyev, and Kochesoko…]

‘The defence has until 10 August 2019 to get acquainted with all of the materials of the investigation, after which the investigator must forward the case to the prosecutor for the approval of the indictment’, Atabiyev said.