03 October 2016, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 26-October 2

15th Jubilee International Investment Forum in Sochi; voting at the referendum on amendments to Azerbaijani Constitution; murder of a Muslim religious activist in the Stavropol Territory; selection of jurors for trial in case of Boris Nemtsov's assassination in Moscow; election of the Speaker of the Dagestani Parliament and hunger strike of Buynaksk Communists, who demand to cancel the results of the elections of September 18; Pope's visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 26-October 2, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Sochi hosts 15th Jubilee International Investment Forum

On September 29-October 2, the building of the main media centre of the Olympic Park in Sochi hosted the 15th International Investment Forum "Sochi-2016". The key theme of the forum was "A new quality of public administration: projects for growth, projects for life". The forum was attended by more than 700 heads of Russian and foreign companies. During the forum, experts discussed the prospects for development of the resort and tourism industry, IT industry, regional development strategies and search for personnel to serve investments, as well as the reform of state control and supervision. 215 business contracts for the total amount of 704 billion roubles were concluded during the forum, the "Argumenty Nedeli Sochi" reports. The Sochi administration signed contracts on implementation of five projects for the total amount of 14.7 billion roubles, including construction of two indoor water parks, waterfront in the Imereti Lowland, unified multifunctional communications centre, as well as complex construction of buildings in the Lazarevskoe District.

Azerbaijan holds referendum on amendments to Constitution

On September 26, Azerbaijanheld a referendum on amendments to the Constitution, initiated by President Ilham Aliev. The proposed amendments include increasing the term of president in office from five up to seven years and entitling the President with the right to dissolve the Parliament. The constitutional amendments also lift the minimum age limit for a presidential candidate and provide that in case if the president is unable to perform his duties, then his powers are transferred to the first vice-president without holding new elections. According to the data on processing of all ballots, voiced by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on September 27, the majority of voters supported the amendments to the Constitution. According to the CEC, the voter turnout reached 69.7%. The opposition has spoken against the constitutional amendments and called them reactionary. Meanwhile, during the voting, the opposition claimed mass violations. Besides, according to the oppositionists, the referendum has failed to secure a 25-percent quorum, and thus, the opposition demand to cancel the results of the voting.

Members of the PACE assessment mission have reported that the referendum was organized in accordance with the legislation and its results reflected the will of the Azerbaijani people. Meanwhile, the PACE mission has called on to maintain a balance between the branches of power in Azerbaijan. According to Human rights defenders from the "Freedom House" and the Centre for Election Monitoring and Democracy Training (CEMDT), the referendum has been held amid the suppression of protesting voices and cannot be treated as a reflection of the will of the people. Officials of the EU and the USA, that recognized the referendum, drew attention of the authorities to reports on violations committed during its preparation and conduct.

Muslim religious activist murdered in Stavropol Territory

On September 26, in the Stavropol Territory, on the roadside of the road Budyonnovsk-Kara-Tyube, the body of Ravil Kaibaliev, the deputy imam of the village of Kara-Tyube, was found dead with bullet wounds. Members of the Muslim community of Kara-Tyube and Murad Musaev, a well-known advocate, associated the murder with active religious activities of Ravil Kaibaliev. The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was informed by members of the Muslim community that law enforcers put pressure on Ravil Kaibaliev. However, Anton Chablin, a Stavropol journalist, called on people not to focus only on the religious activities of the murdered man. The journalist noted that in the eastern part of the Stavropol Territory, there are a lot of tough conflicts, including those related to land issues. Eduard Mukhametov, Acting Prosecutor of the Stavropol Territory, took the progress of the investigation into the Ravil Kaibaliev's murder under his personal control. Till present, the only officially reported version of the murder is a road conflict. It should be noted that Ravil Kaibaliev became the seventh victim among Muslim activists in the StavropolTerritory since 2012.

Ravil Kaibaliev was buried on September 27. When returning from the cemetery, people, who attended the ceremony of burial of the Muslim activist, were detained by fighters of the OMON (riot police). They were released later. According to members of the Muslim community of Kara-Tyube, the detention might be connected with the law enforcers' expectation of unsanctioned protest actions in connection with the murder of the religious figure.

In Moscow, Court selects jurors for trial in case of Boris Nemtsov's assassination

On September 28, the Moscow District   Military Court held a hearing to select behind closed doors 12 main and 10 reserve members of the jury for the trial in the case of the politician Boris Nemtsov's assassination. It was the second attempt to select jurors, and 84 candidates came for the selection. The first court hearing on the merits with involvement of a jury is scheduled for October 3. Let us remind you that the criminal case involves natives of Chechnya and Ingushetia as defendants, who plead not guilty. The case also involves Chechen officers Ruslan Mukhudinov, Ruslan Geremeev, and Beslan Shavanov, who was killed during his detention. Investigators believe the murder was ordered and organized by Ruslan Mukhudinov. He is put on the international wanted list, and the criminal investigation against him is separated into a single case.

In Dagestan, MPs elect Speaker of Parliament, while Buynaksk Communists go on hunger strike with demand to cancel election results

The first meeting of deputies of the National Assembly of Dagestan, elected on September 18, was held in Makhachkala on September 29. At the meeting, the MPs elected Khizri Shikhsaidov the Speaker of the Dagestani Parliament, and Suleiman Kerimov was re-elected to the Federation Council. At the same meeting, the MPs elected four Vice-Speakers and chairmen of the eight committees. Dagestani journalists claim preservation of the clan concept in the new convocation of the Parliament of Dagestan, updated by 60%. So, among the "groups of influence" in the National Assembly of Dagestan, Magomed Magomedov, the deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Chernovik" (Draft), highlighted the clan of Khizri Shikhsaidov, the clan of Dagestani leader Ramazan Abdulatipov, and the clan of Saigidpasha Umakhanov, Dagestani Minister for Transport and Energy. The Parliament remains under the control of the republic's leaders, notes Gadjimurad Sagitov, the editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper "Novoe Delo".

On September 28, members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) in Buynaksk declared a hunger strike. They are not satisfied with the results of the voting at the elections to the National Assembly of Dagestan. The protest action takes place at the headquarters of the Buynaksk branch of the CPRF, in the building of the Buynaksk aggregate plant. According to the hunger-strikers, the protest action initially involved 15 people. The protestors argue that according to the protocol copies, made after the voting in Buynaksk, the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party gained 10,000 votes less than the election commission finally counted. On October 2, the protesters reported two of them had to stop their hunger strike because of deterioration of health state.

Pope Francis visits Georgia and Azerbaijan

On October 2, Pope Francis arrived in Azerbaijan with a pastoral visit. In Baku, at the Church of the Holy Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, he served a mass, which was attended by about 1000 Catholics. While meeting the public in Baku together with President Ilham Aliev, Pope Francis has said that the Karabakh conflict should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. He has urged the international community to find a solution to the conflict, the "Interfax" reports.

Pope Francis came to Baku from Georgia, which he visited on September 30. InTbilisi, he served a mass at one of the stadiums, which, according to the law enforcement agencies, was attended by about 3000 people. Yet before the arrival of Pope Francis to Georgia, members of NGO "Union of Orthodox Parents" spoke against his visit. They announced their intention to accompany the visit of Pope Francis with their protest actions. They held a protest action on September 30. The protestors came to the streets with the poster reading: "Pope is a spiritual aggressor". The protest action was held on the roadside of the road which was used by cars from corteges of Pope Francis and the President of Georgia.

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