Staunton, September 2 – At yesterday’s hearing of the Ingush Seven trial, defense lawyers succeeded in including in the record a fuller translation of a video of the March 2019 meeting. It destroyed the prosecution’s case as it showed the defendants had called on protesters to remain calm and had in fact been in close communication with officials toward that end.
What makes this a breakthrough is that earlier the judge in this case, who does not know Ingush, accepted as evidence only a small part of the video of the 2019 meeting and did not hear the declarations of the defendants urging calm and mentioning their cooperation with officials (fortanga.org/2021/09/dva-svidetelya-i-perevod-vystuplenij-na-mitinge-v-magase-podtverdili-nevinovnost-liderov-protesta/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/367676/
Prosecutors earlier had succeeded in introducing a highly edited version of the video into the record, but now the defense has managed to have the full version introduced, something that both undercuts the prosecutors’ arguments and shows that the case against the Ingush Seven failed to follow even Russian judicial procedural rules.
But perhaps the most important consequence of this development, as it is unlikely to change the verdict the judge will return, is that it serves to highlight something the authorities have downplayed from the beginning: all the case against the Ingush Seven has been conducted in Russian by people who don’t speak Ingush and aren’t using Ingush language sources.
Both Fortanga and Kavkaz-Uzel in their reporting reproduce sizeable chunks of what the defendants said both in urging calm and also in talking about the way in which they were working with the authorities to avoid conflict. These texts completely exonerate the defendants even if in the end the powers that be are likely to insist on a guilty verdict.
But that doesn’t mean this new evidence isn’t important. While the return of guilty verdicts has seemed certain since the beginning, this latest evidence which has been admitted to the record by the courts makes it ever more likely that having been declared guilty, the defendants will be given suspended sentences or even more likely sentenced to time served.
Anything more draconian than that, even if it would appeal to the powers that be in Moscow, would likely trigger precisely the kind of social explosion in Ingushetia that cooler heads at the center and in Magas will want to avoid.