Trial Begins in Case of Rebel Attack in Dagestan
Published: May 22, 2001 (Issue # 671)
MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan - One early spring morning in Chechnya, a column of 48 servicemen left Vedeno for a town up in the mountains, but part way into the trip one truck's radiator overheated and the column came to a halt. A band of Islamic rebels spied the vulnerable troops and attacked.
Only five of the servicemen survived to tell the tale. The rebels killed 32 men on the spot and took 11 more prisoners, later offering to trade them for Colonel Yury Budanov, who was in military custody on charges of murdering a young Chechen woman. The offer was turned down, and the mutilated bodies of the prisoners were later found in a nearby village.
On Monday, seven men accused of participating in the attack on the Perm OMON unit on March 29, 2000, went on trial in Dagestan's Supreme Court. They face from 20 years behind bars to life imprisonment if convicted.
The suspects appeared in court before Judge Butta Ivaisov to begin hearing the case against them. Six of them sat together inside the defendants' cage, but the seventh, Eduard Valiakhmetov of Tatarstan, sat outside. He has given evidence against the others and was afraid to be confined with them, a court officer said.
Some of the suspects' relatives and a delegation from the Perm OMON joined journalists in the courtroom.
The accused acted strangely, as if under the influence of drugs. They reacted slowly to questions and had to have questions repeated several times. One of them, Magdi Magomedov, 35, kept pressing his head with his hands.
Investigators say the defendants were under the command of Abu-Quteiba, a warlord of Arab origin who is based in the Shatoi region.
Valiakhmetov, 18, and Shamil Kitov, 31, from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, are not accused of taking part in the attack, but are on trial with the others because they are suspected of belonging to the same rebel formation.
The other five - Magomedov, 35; Imamshamil Atayev, 26; Gadzhi Batyrov, 22; Khairula Kuzaaliev, 27; and Atai Mirzayev, 31 - are all from Karamakhi, Dagestan, and are followers of Wahhabism, an austere brand of Islam.
Investigators told the court that Atayev was found to be mentally ill and asked that he be sent for treatment. No decision was made Monday.
In 1998, residents of Karamakhi proclaimed the village to be independent Islamic territory and drove out all state officials. The Wahhabis introduced Islamic Sharia law and punished violators by beating them with sticks, a job carried out by Magomedov, according to investigators.Pages: