15 January 2018, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 8-14

Detention in Chechnya of the leader of the representative office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial"; guilty verdict to journalist Afghan Mukhtarly in Azerbaijan; death in Tbilisi of a man wounded in a special operation in the Pankisi Gorge, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 8-14, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

In Chechnya, rights defender charged with drug possession

On January 9, Oyub Titiev, the leader of the Grozny office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", was detained in Chechnya. The law enforcement bodies reported about 180 grams of marijuana found with Oyub Titiev. On January 11, Oyub Titiev was accused of storing drugs on a large scale, and he was arrested for two months. According to Oyub Titiev, drugs were planted to him by law enforcer. He was also forced to incriminate himself and threatened with institution of criminal cases against his relatives for aiding and abetting terrorists. On January 14, advocate Pyotr Zaikin reported that family members of the rights defender left Chechnya for security reasons.

International human rights organizations, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, and the European Union spoke out in defence of Oyub Titiev. The "Human Rights Watch" (HRW) treated the detention of Oyub Titiev as an attempt to squeeze out the HRC "Memorial" from Chechnya. Alvi Karimov, the spokesman for the leader of Chechnya, called groundless the assumptions about the connection between the Oyub Titiev's case and his work for the HRC "Memorial".

In Azerbaijan, court pronounces guilty verdict to journalist Afghan Mukhtarly

On January 12, in Azerbaijan, the court sentenced journalist Afghan Mukhtarly to six years of imprisonment on the charge of illegal crossing of the border, smuggling and rendering resistance to a public official with use of violence. Afghan Mukhtarly, who left for Georgia in 2014, claimed that on May 30, 2017, he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and brought to Baku. The defence of the journalist called the verdict a political order. The NGO "Reporters Without Borders" (RWB) called the journalist's story a terrible signal to other Azerbaijani journalists in exile.

In Armenia, authorities approve a ban of right-hand drive vehicles despite protests from car owners

On January 11, the Armenian authorities approved a ban on import and registration of right-hand drive vehicles. Starting from April 1, 2018, the import of cars with right-hand drive to Armenia will be banned. The ban will not affect the cars imported before April 1. Initially, the Armenian Ministry for Transport suggested only prohibiting the exploitation of all such cars. Repeated protests of car owners forced the Ministry to correct the draft. However, car owners accused officials of violating agreements and threatened with new protests. The discussion of the draft was to be completed on January 12, and by that day, the activists were to submit new proposals, explained Arthur Khachaturyan, a member of the movement "Right-Hand Drive". On January 12, car dealers demanded to cancel the ban on import of right-hand drive vehicles to Armenia.

Bad weather complicates life of people in Southern Caucasus and Southern Russia

Last week, life of people in Southern Caucasus and Southern Russia was complicated by the bad weather. On January 9, about 12,000 residents of four districts of Dagestan were left without electricity supply because snowfall and wind. The consequences of accidents were not eliminated until the other day. Besides, on January 9, the whole South Ossetia several times was cut off for several hours from electricity supply because of strong wind. On January 13, the Kerch crossing was suspended because of strong wind. The ferry traffic was resumed more than 24 hours later, and about a thousand cars, buses and trucks were accumulated in the ports. On January 13 to 14, the traffic of heavy trucks along the Trans-Caucasian Highway, linking Russia with South Ossetia, was closed because of heavy snowfall. The traffic along the Georgian Military Road was restricted several times during a week. Besides, the Tbilisi airport works with interruptions because of fog.

In Georgia, a man wounded in special operation in Pankisi Gorge dies

On January 10, 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili died in Georgia. He was wounded to his head during a special operation conducted in the Pankisi Gorge on December 26. He died when an agreement on his medical treatment in Turkey had been reached. Malkhaz Machalikashvili, the father of Temirlan Machalikashvili, has announced his intention to seek for rehabilitation of his son. According to a version voiced by the Georgian State Security Service, Temirlan Machalikashvili tried to throw a grenade to law enforcers. Relatives of the young man denied the above version, and the Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the case on abuse of power by law enforcers.

Vladikavkaz hosts an action of people dissatisfied with investigation into Vladimir Tskaev's death

In early January, three arrested persons involved in the case on the death of Vladikavkaz resident Vladimir Tskaev who died on November 1, 2015, after interrogation by policemen, were released under recognizance not to leave. According to his relatives, the man was tortured. On January 13, relatives of Vladimir Tskaev and other residents of Vladikavkaz went to a picket with the demand to conduct an objective investigation into the Vladimir Tskaev's death. About 300 people took part in the action. Georgy Tskaev, a brother of the deceased man, accused investigators of ineffectiveness and demanded to re-classify the charge from article on causing death by negligence to article on murder.

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