Georgia extradites Chechen prisoner to Russia
The Georgian government has extradited Ramzan Akhiadov, a citizen of the Russian Federation and Chechen by nationality, to Russia. Akhiadov was wanted by the Russian authorities on charges of terrorism, recruiting people into the ranks of the Islamic State, as well as participating in hostile behavior while in the ranks of the Islamic State from 2013-2015.
In Georgia, Akhiadov’s extradition has generated a lot of interest – Georgian politicians and human rights activists have accused the authorities of violating European conventions and unquestioningly obeying the orders of the Kremlin.
The Georgian government affirms that they received a guarantee from the Russian Procurator-General’s Office that Akhiadov will be treated humanely.
Moscow put out a search for Ramzana Akhiadova, born in 1979, through Interpol.
Akhiadov was later handed over to Moscow on the morning of September 19.
There is very little information given in the statement about Akhiadov by the Minister of Justice of Georgia, Tea Tsulukiani. Tsulukiani said Akhiadov arrived in Georgia from Turkey, where he “also helped a terrorist organization.”
“I cannot give any more information on this issue,” stated the Minister.
JAMnews spoke with Akhiadov’s lawyer, Aleksander Tatelishvili.
He said that Ramkhan Akhiadov had been living in Kutaisi with his family since 2016. He owned a small business, was not going to leave Georgia and was counting on getting his citizenship.
Aleksander Tatelishvili says that Alexander Tatelishvili says that Georgian law enforcement officers apprehended Akhiadov purely by accident: nine months ago he was stopped in Kutaisi by the police for a parking violation, and which point it became clear that he was wanted by Interpol.
Akhiadov spent the last nine months in the Rustavi Penitentiary Institution No. 6. The issue of extradition to Russia was discussed at the time of his arrest.
Akhiadov appealed to the Georgian government, requesting that they not extradite him to Russia. In his petition, he argued that in Russia, he would have no hope of a fair trial and would face torture and inhuman treatment in prison.
Georgian Migration Services denied Akhiadov refugee or other humanitarian status. He appealed this decision in court, but lost the case.
Tatelishvili says that there are a lot of questions in the Akhiadov case. He claims that only the decisions of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office were filed with the case and that there was no evidence of Akhiadov’s guilt.
“The issue is that he was extradited only on the basis of the decisions made by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. Nothing else is included in the case — no witness testimonies, nor photo and video materials, nor any evidence, for example, that he crossed the Syrian border.
There are no other documents besides the decisions of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. No one even demanded any additional evidence of Akhiadov’s guilt from the Russian side. They could have just as easily sent any order for the search and capture of any given person.
But should we not maintain at least the minimum standard for documented statements? Can you really have such blind faith in Russia?! International conventions dictate that we should exercise great caution when it comes to handing people over to Russia,” says the lawyer.
Guarantees from the Russian Prosecutor’s Office
Before handing Akhiadov to Russia, Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani said, “the Georgian side received written guarantees from the Russian Federation that, despite the serious charges, Ramzan Akhiadov would be kept in humane conditions.”
She believes that these written guarantees are enough to dissuade any ideas that Akhiadov will be under threat in Russia.
“The Strasbourg standards dictate that such guarantees cannot be called into question,” said Tsulukiani.
Here is the full quote:
“Personally speaking, as for the former lawyer of the Strasbourg court, every Chechen, every Kist (ethnic Chechens living in Georgia), whether their our citizens, or Russian citizens, is and remains a priority. This is why we received written guarantees from the Russian Federation stating that, despite the seriousness of the accusations, Akhiadov’s prison conditions will be normal.
He is not threatened by anything that qualifies as a violation of the European Convention. This is an article implying a ban on torture, the right to life, etc.”
“The man was sent to the torture chamber”
Unlike the Minister of Justice, neither the Georgian opposition nor human rights activists believe the Russian Prosecutor’s Office’s guarantees.
Akhiadov’s transfer to Russia caused an uproar amongst the politically-active public.
“Just yesterday this man was here, and now he is being tortured in Russia! You did not protect him! We won’t forgive you for this!” wrote one of the leaders of the opposition party European Georgia, Elene Khoshtaria, on her Facebook page.
She says that “this is yet another overtly pro-Russian and inhumane decision made by the Georgian authorities.”
Ucha Nanuashvili, Head of the Center for Human Rights, said in an interview with JAMnews that the European Convention on Human Rights dictates that in cases like this, convention member states must study all of the risks that extradition may entail, something that was not done by the Georgian side.
“The fact that this was done unquestioningly, without examining evidence of guilt, only on the basis of a request from the Prosecutor General’s Office is a violation of human rights,” says Nanuashvili.
He says that the Georgian authorities’ motivation is so incomprehensible that we must assume that “the authorities openly comply with the Kremlin’s requirements in an attempt to avoid confrontation.”
“People who are not likely to be tortured are not extradited,” says Nanuashvili.
What is going on in Russian prisons?
In Russian prisons, torture is a mundane and everyday occurrence, as confirmed by reports by international organizations.
According to a Council of Europe report, Russia ranks first in mortality among prisoners, with 6 deaths for every 1000 prisoners.
Here is a more recent report: on July 20, the independent news agency Novaya Gazeta published a video recording of a prisoner, Yevgeny Makarov, being tortured by officers at the Yaroslavl colony No. 1. His hands are tied and the heels of his feet are beaten with batons. From time to time they throw water on him, and then he is forced to remove his pants and underwear.
On July 22 in Bryansk, at Colony No. 6, a prisoner died from his beatings. The prison officer simply strangled him.
Russian human rights activist and head of the Russ Sidyashaya Foundation Olga Romanova said that torture in Russian prisons has become so common that even state-run television stations do not shy away from showing it.
“You can do a Youtube search for the words, “torture, zone, colony, Russia” and come up with hundreds of results. State-owned channels, by the way, have mentioned the issue more than once. For example, an entire broadcast devoted to torture in a Chelyabinsk prison was recently shown on local regional stations,” says Romanova.
She says that the Russian prison system today is more closed-off than ever:
“No one is punished for this outrageous behavior for several reasons. First of all, it is a tightly closed system. Independent observers are not allowed into the prison system at all. There is no regulation. It is very difficult to go to a colony and check on the human rights conditions. And it is closing off more and more due to widespread corruption,” says the human rights activist.
Romanova says that the population also seems to have gotten used to the terrible news from prisons:
“Everyone’s already used to it. This is how things are usually run in pretrial detention centers, colonies, police departments and the Federal Security Service. Just look at some of the latest news: the “network” case in Penza, the terrible death of businessman Pshenichny in St. Petersburg in a pre-trial detention center – he was found with a broken spine and a heating element was shoved in his mouth,” says Romanova.