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Echos of the Domodedovo terrorist attack
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, 30 2011

Echos of the Domodedovo terrorist attack: rehabilitation of the suspects and the guilty

ImageThe attitude of the investigators and staff at the Moscow detention center is honest and fair.” These are in fact very rare words in Russian judicial practice, and come from the mother of Magomed Yevloyev, the suicide bomber who killed himself in a blast at Domodedovo airport, and in doing so killed 37and wounded more than 120.

The investigators in charge of looking into the largest terrorist attack on an airport were honored with this evaluation after having acquitted the bomber’s sister Fatima and his friend Umar Aushev. Originally the investigators considered Fatima a terrorist, and suspected that she had helped her brother prepare the bomb, while Aushev allegedly drove the suicide bomber from their home village of Ali-Yurt to Nazran, from where Yevloyev traveled to Moscow.

A tragedy, especially one of such a magnitude as the bombing of Domodedovo airport, certainly raises questions as to the responsibility for what happened.

The innate sense of justice of the victims’ relatives, in particular, begs the question. Intheir hearts the pain of loss will be felt for decades, and probably for life. Punishment of the guilty, if not a cure for the pain, somewhat ameliorates it. Thetruth and a just retribution because of people’s deaths are a rare thing in Russia, as was clearly demonstrated at ‘Nord-Ost’, Beslan, and other terrorist attacks where victims are still trying to achieve real investigations into the cases, as well as assistance from the State. Willrelatives of those killed and survivors injured in the terrorist attack at Domodedovo ever get the truth? Willthose who are by law supposed to be in prison take their places there, or will it instead be scapegoats on trumped-up charges?

“We heard so many horror stories about how people are tortured”

Yevloyeva and Aushev, who were arrested after the terrorist attack and accused of terrorism, banditry, and the murder of two or more persons, were already released from detention by May 19th. Shortly thereafter, the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, promised to personally monitor the return of these newly liberated prisoners to normal life. OnSeptember 21st, we learned that both of accused have been acquitted of all charges.

As Fatima’s mother Roza acknowledged, had the investigation taken place in the Caucasus, such an outcome for those close to the terrorist would never have been possible. Yevloyev’s family expected no special treatment from Moscow investigators, either.

After the release of Fatima Yevloyeva and her return home to Ingushetia, she agreed to an interview with ‘Caucasian Knot’. “When Ahmed and Iwere arrested and taken to Moscow, Iwas really scared,” said Fatima. “We heard so many horror stories about how people are tortured and mistreated. I’m not afraid for myself, but my brother’s still quite a child. Atthat time he was just 16.”

Ahmed Yevloyev continues to be listed on the case as a suspect in the terrorist attack. Before the bombing, he accompanied his brother in Moscow. After the release of their daughter, however, her parents do not worry as much about illegal investigative methods of investigation as they did before.

“They treated Fatima very well in Moscow, and I’m very happy that my youngest son, Ahmed, is there,” says Rosa Yevloyeva. “If Icould tell the whole world this, Iwould.”

“Head of the transport department”

Along with the release of Yevloyeva and Aushev, 10high-ranking security officials and airport managers, who were investigated for failure to provide security in the criminal case opened after the terrorist attack, were also cleared this September. Thiswas an important event, since immediately after the terrorist attack, bloggers reported that blowing up Domodedovo was not a difficult task. Airport officials were told not to leave the city for three months, and during that time most certainly met with investigators and probably told, or at least could have told, a lot about how things were with airport security. TheProsecutor General’s Office, however, intervened, and the preventive measure was invalidated, suspicions withdrawn, and the Russian Investigative Committee passed the case on to district and reduced the size of the investigativeteam.

Though no one has cancelled the presumption of innocence, this is still a remarkable fact in light of the fact that traditionally notorious crimes are usually sent up the chain to higher authorities, and senior officials take personal responsibility.

Investigative actions are continuing, but it is not known if there is any point to them anymore. Inthe meantime, one cannot help but recall the words of artist Roman Kartsev: “It’s a pity that we never managed to hear what the head of the transport department had to say.”

“They look where it’s easy to see”

Oleg Orlov, chairman of the ‘Memorial’ human rights center, told ‘Caucasian Knot’ that cases where those arrested on charges of involvement with illegal armed groups, and especially in cases of terrorism, the release of such people is extremely rare. Allow us to mention the case of ‘terrorism’ against Zara Murtazaliyeva: Russian and Chechen human rights activists have repeatedly pointed to the illogical investigation of this case, considering it fabricated (the article by ‘Caucasian Knot’: “Cases and legal proceedings in 2010” also describes other controversial cases).

Cases of this kind, according to Orlov, are usually brought to court, where charges often fall apart. Itis considered a favorable outcome in such cases when sentencing falls below the lower limit, or is reduced to time already served in prison.

“Very often people from the families of militants are prosecuted in the same case that their relative is charged in, or something related. After all, our law enforcement agencies don’t often look where they should, but, as the joke goes, ‘they look where it’s easy to see’ among militants who were earlier amnestied and militants’ relatives,” Orlov told our correspondent.

The release and rehabilitation of Umar Aushev and Fatima Yevloyeva, according to the human rights activist, speaks to the fact that “the investigators are seriously working on this case and really wants to find out what happened.” Orlov concluded that “it’s good that they released the innocent, and good that the investigation wants to find out. Suchsteps increase the level of trust.”

Current defendants in the terrorist attack on Domodedovo are Bashir Khamkhoyev, leader of the armed underground movement in the Sunzha district of Ingushetia, Ahmed Yevloyev, younger brother of the suicide bomber, and the brothers Islam and Ilez Yandiyev.

As we can see, the scope for the investigation and proceedings is not very wide. Hopefully, it will not abuse its “increased level of confidence.”

In ‘Caucasian Knot’, a special report for ‘Echo of Moscow’

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