Friday, September 26, 2008

Website Owner Shot Dead:RUSSIA/INGUSHETIA

RUSSIA/INGUSHETIA: Website Owner Shot Dead

3 September 2008
International PEN is shocked by the death in police custody on 31 August of website owner Magomed Yevloyev from a gunshot wound to the head. As the owner of a website that has been fiercely critical of the Ingushetian leadership, concerns have been voiced that he may have been assassinated. International PEN is calling for the investigation into the death to take into consideration these fears, for any person found responsible to be brought to justice and that measures are taken to safeguard other journalists who speak out.
Yevloyev, 38, was arrested as he disembarked from an airplane at Manas airport in Ingushetia's capital, Nazran. He died from a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted as he was being driven in a police van from the airport. Police claim that the death was accidental and that a policeman's firearm had accidentally fired as Yevloyev had lunged at the officer in an attempt to resist arrest. The Russian prosecutor general's office has stated that an investigation has been launched.
Yevloyev was the owner of the opposition website ingushetiya.ru, said to be the only media critical of the regional president Murat Zyazikov. Situated in the Russian North Caucasus, Ingushetia shares borders with Chechnya and North Ossetia. There has been growing alarm at the deteriorating situation for human rights and security in the country as heavy handed measures have been taken to tackle outbreaks of violence carried out militant groups seeking to overthrow the Ingushetian government and to oust Russian security and military. Ingushetiya.ru is one of the very few, if only, independent media to report on the tensions and is also known as a reliable source of information on issues including corruption, human rights abuses, poverty and unemployment, as well as anti-government protests. The website has suffered several attempts to close it down. Most recently a June 2008 banning order issued for "inciting ethnic hatred" and distributing "extremist" materials was upheld by a district court in Moscow. It is widely believed that the charges are an attempt by the Ingushetian authorities to stifle comment on the growing tensions in Ingushetia. Despite this, the site managed to continue to publish up to Yevloyev's death.
Yevloyev's friends and family who had been waiting at the airport to greet him and had witnessed the arrest, report that shortly before the plane had disembarked, he had sent a mobile message to say that President Ziyazikov was also on the same flight. A few days earlier, on 22 August, Yevloyev had posted a statement on his website accusing Zyazikov and the Ingushetian Interior Minister Musa Medov of unleashing "a civil war against the Ingushetian people", adding that "all attempts undertaken by Zyazkivov and Medov are futile".
Just a month earlier, in late July 2008, ingushetiya.ru editor in chief, Roza Malsagova, fled into exile in France. She had originally left for Moscow with her family in November 2007 after suffering harassment, threats and ultimately being beaten in front of her children. She also faced criminal prosecution for ‘incitement of ethnic hatred and ‘distribution of extremist materials'. However the threats followed her to Moscow, leading her to continue to fear for her safety and to move once again.
Further informationThe killing of Magomed Yevloyev has been widely reported in the international press. The WiPC recommends:
Human Rights Watch Report: "As If They Fell From the Sky" - Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia http://hrw.org/reports/2008/russia0608/
Committee to Protect Journalists appeal: http://www.cpj.org/news/2008/europe/russ02sep08na.html
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty backgrounder: ‘Website Owner's Death
Could Prove Point of No Return to Ingushetia' http://www.rferl.org/content/Website_Owners_Death_Could_Prove_Point_Of_No_Return_For_Ingushetia/1195419.html
source: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/internationalpen/

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