Staunton, January 20 – Yet another prosecution witness in the Ingush Seven trial undercut the government’s charges against the activist by saying he saw no evidence that any of them had attacked or encouraged others to attack police in the March 2019 demonstration and that he was unaware about any “extremist community” they were supposed to be members of.
The trial remains closed to most observers: this testimony was reported by defense lawyers. It is only the latest example of prosecution witnesses failing to provide the kind of evidence prosecutors had promised (fortanga.org/2021/01/svidetel-iz-mvd-zayavil-chto-ne-videl-narushenij-v-dejstviyah-liderov-protesta-v-magase/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/358871/).
Given the way in which the Russian “justice” system works, the seven are likely to be found guilty on both charges. This latest failure to provide any proof of that is reported only to highlight the political nature of the case and the inability of investigators and prosecutors to come up with any real evidence despite holding the seven in detention for more than a year.
Meanwhile, in another case, prosecutors dropped the extremism charges against Rashid Maysigov, the former editor of the Fortanga news agency. He has been charged with possession of drugs, based on drugs police planted on him, and with extremism. But the latter charge was so flimsy that a judge has dropped it (fortanga.org/2021/01/delo-protiv-majsigova-o-separatizme-prekrashheno/).
The case appears to be less about Maysigov than about his former employer, Fortanga, and its chief editor, Izbella Yevloyeva, who is now in emigration. Lawyers report that the interrogation of Maysigov focused on her and the publication more than on any actions by the defendant, thus suggesting that this case like the other is part of the more general crackdown on civil society.
That Fortanga is a target of the authorities is also suggested by a letter, dated yesterday, that the Russian federal media supervision agency, Roskomnadzor, sent to the news agency pointing out that it had carried an article in May 2019 that the authorities have since judged to be extremist (fortanga.org/2021/01/roskomnadzor-predupredil-fortangu-o-blokirovke/).
Such a letter could become the opening round of an attempt to shutter the independent news agency which has taken the lead in reporting on civil society activities in Ingushetia.
In an unrelated but potentially important development, officials in Magas are reviewing with an eye to improving the operations of the permanent representatives of the republic operating in Moscow and other federal subjects of the Russian Federation (bakdar.org/institut-polnomochnyx-predstavitelej-ingushetii-v-regionax-rossii-budet-pereformatirovan/).