Human Rights Activists Claim Chechnya Continues to Terrorize Them

A Chechen court has sentenced the mother of Chechen human rights lawyer and activist Abubakar Yangulbaev to five-and-a-half years in prison for fraud and assaulting authorities, as reported by a Russian human rights group on Tuesday.

Elena Milashina IWOC award 2013Awarded Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina, severely beaten in Chechnya. (Photo: U.S. Department of State, Wikipedia, License)The Team Against Torture (Команда против пыток) stated that the Akhmatovsky District Court of Grozny, the capital of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, refused to allow Zarema Musaeva legal representation after her lawyer was beaten up while heading to the trial.

Although she vehemently denied the charges, she was found guilty.

Commenting on his mother's verdict, Yangulbaev stated that "such a punishment is equal to the death penalty" considering his mother's health.

The Team Against Torture emphasized that Musaeva "was not represented by a lawyer throughout the verdict" because an armed group in Grozny ambushed the car with her lawyer Alexander Nemov and Novaya Gazeta's investigative journalist Elena Milashina and severely beat them.

"They were on their way from the airport to the court," the group stated and described the heinous techniques used by the assailants during the attack.

"Milashina was assaulted, had her hair cut off, and was splashed with fluorescent green paint," according to the Team Against Torture. She was then severely beaten.

Nemov reportedly sustained numerous injuries, including a knife wound.

"The defense urged the court to delay the verdict for a few hours so that another lawyer could come in to replace Nemov, but the court denied their request," read the report.

Furthermore, the Human Rights Protection Memorial Center stated that the armed men threatened Nemov and Milashina with death while holding a pistol to their heads.

They also grabbed and broke their technical equipment before viciously assaulting them and said, "You were warned. Get out of here and don't write anything."

In February 2022, Milashina had to leave Russia following numerous serious threats from the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Similarly, after being directly threatened by Chechen politicians, Musaeva's family, including her husband Sayda and her children, left Russia.

In the search for her son Abubakar, several men dressed in civilian clothing, presumably from Chechen law enforcement, stormed into the Yangulbaev family home in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod on January 20, 2022. They brutally assaulted father Sayda, a former federal judge, and kidnapped mother Zarema Musaeva, bringing her to Chechnya, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Sayda was not detained at the time due to his status as a federal judge, though he left the country soon after the attack.

Chechen authorities led by Kremlin-backed Kadyrov have targeted numerous Russian and Chechen human rights groups and activists and have been accused of kidnapping, extrajudicial executions, and torture, particularly targeting the LGBT population.

In February 2022, shortly after the kidnapping of Zarema Musaeva, a Russian lawmaker from Chechnya, Adam Delimkhanov, openly advocated for the decapitation of Abubakar Yangulbaev and his family.