24 December 2014, Wednesday

The Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria handed down lengthy prison sentences from 10 years to life for over 50 detainees accused on terrorism charges, including a life sentence for former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Rasul Kudayev, Russian Justice Initiative reported today. A side from Mr Kudayev, four other detainees received life sentences. Kudayev and the 56 other detainees have been held in pre-trial detention for as long as 9 years in certain cases, awaiting trial for over four years, and then awaiting the Court’s judgment.

The mass criminal trial is connected to the attack on 13 October 2005 by armed rebels on several government institutions in Nalchik, including the buildings of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and OMON (special forces), three police stations and also the Nalchik airport. In the ensuing hostilities between government forces and the rebels, which lasted until the next day, more than 100 people, including approximately 14 civilians, 90 rebels and dozens of law enforcement officers, were reported to have been killed and over 200 wounded. The investigation was entrusted to a special investigating group of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation.

There were extensive reports of ill-treatment of at least 40 of the detainees during the pre-investigation into the 2005 raid, and many were systematically tortured. At least half of the detainees, including Mr Kudayev, have filed applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The gravity of Mr Kudayev’s physical condition following his arrest has been confirmed by extensive forensic medical examination records and witness statements. Russian Justice Initiative is representing the interests of 11 of the detainees, including Mr Kudayev, before the ECtHR.

The pre-trial and trial phases have been plagued by innumerable delays since the start. After the preliminary investigation was concluded, over 100 jurors were recruited, but following amendments made to the Russian Criminal Code in 2008 stripping terrorist suspects of the right to trial by jury, the trial began in February 2009 without a jury. Mr Kudayev and another detainee, Azret Shavayev, appealed the to the Russian Supreme Court, which ruled in 2010 that trial without a jury was constitutional in terrorism cases. In 2013 several detainees appealed again to the Russian Supreme Court, arguing that their inability to receive conjugal visits for over eight years violated their rights to family life. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. A separate application on this matter was submitted to the European Court.

By mid-2012 the Court had communicated five applications to the Russian Government, including Kudayev v Russia, and had found them partly admissible.

For more information:

In Nalchik, Magomed Abubakarov: + 79287238199 (Russian only)

In Moscow, Grigor Avetisyan: +74959150869, +79264229126 (Russian and English) 

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