Lawless enforcement

Russian police found a new way to falsify criminal cases: those accused of disorderly conduct are charged with terrorism and other grave crimes. We’ve found 170 such cases in Chechnya alone

Lawless enforcement
Illustration by “Novaya Gazeta. Europe”

At the end of 2021, Novaya Gazeta reported on the scheme used by police officers to falsify terrorism charges against migrants in Moscow. First, a person gets detained (often, when they are not far from a police station), then they are subjected to an administrative arrest for disorderly conduct or disobeying a police officer’s order. Then, the number of arrests grows, after which they suddenly become accused of a particularly grave crime, get slapped with criminal charges and receive a guilty verdict. As we have discovered, this scheme of “solving” criminal cases, terrorism cases among them, is not only used in Moscow.

In total, we have identified 45 criminal cases across Russian regions (excepting Moscow) with one or more persons of interest being subjected to an administrative arrest before being accused of a crime related to terrorism.

Foul-mouthed terrorists

Juni Murdiyev and Adam Sugaipov are Chechnya natives, 28 and 35 years old respectively. According to the Supreme Court’s verdict, they arrived from the Chechen capital Grozny to the city of Krasnodar on 19 June 2017. There they bought plane tickets for Turkey’s Antalya and hotel vouchers. On 24 June, while going through border control in Krasnodar’s airport, they were detained and accused of attempting to “join the Islamic State (IS) illegal arms formation”.

This case is notable due to the fact that before

they were subjected to criminal charges, both Murdiyev and Sugaipov had received administrative sentences for “disorderly conduct”. 

On the same day, after they had been detained in the airport and protocols had been drawn up against them in the Krasnodar region’s FSB Directorate, both suspects were once again detained by police officers at 11 PM in the Goryachy Klyuch town, located 72 km away from Krasnodar.

According to the identical rulings made by the Goryachy Klyuch City Court in regards to Murdiyev and Sugaipov, both of them were “using foul language, acting aggressively, failed to react to passers-by’s comments and continued acting like hooligans…”

The court ruled that they had to be subjected to two days of administrative arrest.

On 26 June, two days later, 30 minutes after they had been set free, Murdiyev and Sugaipov began to once again “disrupt public order” not far from the police station. They were detained and given eight days of administrative arrest.

The third time, both men were detained at the same place at 0:20 AM on 5 July, 50 minutes after they had allegedly been set free. On the same day, 5 July, the court sentenced them to five more days of administrative arrest.

Their last administrative arrest occurred on 10 July at 0:45 AM, 25 minutes after they had allegedly been set free from their previous stint in the detention centre. According to the documents, neither of the men “admitted guilt, they denied the circumstances of the wrongdoing described in the protocol”.

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In total, Murdiyev and Sugaipov were subjected to 18 days of administrative arrest. After they had been set free on 13 July, they were immediately arrested in connection to a terrorism criminal case. Sugaipov was sentenced to seven years behind bars. Murdiyev was sentenced to eight years in a strict regime penal colony. Their appeals were overturned.

This is not the first case of this kind: our previous research of criminal charges pressed against Moscow’s migrants shows that the scheme involving a series of administrative arrests turning into a criminal case has already been perfected by the Russian law enforcement.

Notably, this was not the only case in the town of Goryachy Klyuch either: it turned out that in 2016-2017, several citizens were brought before the Goryachy Klyuch City Court for administrative wrongdoings. These people were later sentenced under terrorism-related articles of the Russian Criminal Code.

Terrorists or human rights defenders?

Another instance to mention is a criminal case against Gamid Dataev, Artyom Vatrya, and Bekhruz Ganiyev, arrested in Surgut, a city in Western Siberia. The three men are accused of preparing to commit a terrorist attack, possession of weapons and explosives, and making explosives. Furthermore, Dataev is accused of drug possession and founding a terrorist community. Vatrya and Ganiyev are accused of participating in a terrorist community. Currently, their cases are being tried in court.

Left to right: Artyom Vatrya, Gamid Dataev, Bekhruz Ganiyev. Photo:  Memorial

Left to right: Artyom Vatrya, Gamid Dataev, Bekhruz Ganiyev. Photo: Memorial 

This criminal case ended up on our radar due to the administrative detention of one of the people involved, Gamid Dataev. At first, he was accused of disorderly conduct, but on 17 December, the Surgut City Court returned his case due to “the protocol being filled out incorrectly”. On 24 December, a protocol was filed on his alleged “failing to comply with a police officer’s lawful request”. It was also returned to the police.

Human rights project Supporting Political Prisoners. Memorial recognised the three men as political prisoners. Memorial considers the reason for their politically motivated criminal persecution to be the men’s defence of the rights of Muslims from the Russian town of Lyantor. Muslims from that town were forcibly taken from their homes by police officers, beaten, and then charged with administrative wrongdoings and fined.

One could speculate that these administrative cases on wrongdoings were falsified with the purpose of unlawful detention of the accused until the moment a criminal case could be initiated against them.

Record-breaking region

On 20 January 2022, Chechnya’s police officers forcibly moved Zarema Musaeva, wife of retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev, from the city of Nizhny Novgorod to the Chechen capital Grozny. The official reason given was her having to give a witness statement in a criminal case. However, immediately after, an administrative wrongdoing protocol was drawn up against the woman for “disorderly conduct”. Later, a criminal case on “inflicting violence on a state representative” was initiated against Musaeva.

In Chechnya, despite legal requirements, the vast majority of court decisions are published without any indication of the date and place of the incriminating act having been committed. Nevertheless, using a search technique that involves matching persons of interest in administrative and criminal cases to their names, last names, and patronymics, taking into account the same jurisdiction, and based on indirect signs in texts of verdicts, Novaya Gazeta Europe was able to find 170 criminal cases with 145 accused that the aforementioned scheme had been potentially used on.

Furthermore, many of these suspicious criminal cases were tried from 2014 to 2019 in the Gudermes City Court and from 2014 to 2016 in the Shalinsky City Court.

The number of suspicious administrative cases out of all the cases in Chechnya went up to 17% in 2019.

In general, the aforementioned scheme is already being used in Chechnya to “solve” criminal cases connected to drug trafficking, theft, and arms trafficking. However, the combination of administrative cases on disorderly conduct and criminal cases on inflicting violence on a state representative might not be that uncommon, seeing as an intoxicated criminal can, in fact, punch a police officer or swear at them. But remembering the case of Zarema Musaeva, one should not exclude these incidents; even in these cases, they could have been fabricated.

The criminal case against Zarema Musaeva, as of today, is still being considered in the Leninsky District Court of the city of Grozny.

Cannabis leaves and mink coats

Out of the 170 criminal cases drawn up under the described scheme in Chechnya, people were subjected to an administrative arrest twice in a row in seven cases. Out of those seven, four criminal cases were initiated under the article on drug trafficking, and the other three on theft, robbery, and burglary.

In three criminal cases related to drug trafficking initiated against Romzan Askhabov, Magomed Vagapov, and Adnan Chiraev, the men were accused of picking leaves off of wild cannabis and keeping them for personal use.

Furthermore, between the date of cannabis being picked and the date of the alleged detention in regards to the criminal case, each of these men had to serve two administrative arrests in a special detention centre, with the lengths of arrests varying from several to fifteen days. The Gudermes City Court sentenced Askhabov to three years behind bars and gave Vagapov a year of suspended sentence. Meanwhile, the Chiraev was given six months in a settlement colony.

On 6 May 2014, the Gudermes City Court considered a criminal case on theft against Vakha Guzuev. He petitioned for the case to be considered in a special order (without the court studying all the case materials), but due to the prosecutor’s objection, the case was tried in the usual format. Guzuev was accused of stealing a mink coat and five bottles of cognac from a restaurant.

However, on 10 and 17 February 2014, Guzuev was charged twice under the administrative article on disorderly conduct. Rulings on these cases have never been published, so we do not even know the length of arrests he had received. But the total match of name, last name, and patronymic of the person of interest, the fact of him surrendering to the police, the petition on the case being tried in a special order, the theft of the mink coat, and the administrative cases in question give us reason to believe that the administrative arrests were not an accident.

The potential scale of criminal case falsification in Russian regions is striking. However, considering all the restrictions imposed on court data that we used for this investigation, in practice, the scheme involving several administrative arrests followed by criminal charges must be used even more frequently than we can see.

Still, we understand that, for example in Chechnya, torture and unlawful arrests are common methods used by the law enforcement. In the case of Chechnya, the real lawlessness will be found outside of court.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.