On 5 September 2016 a court in Chechnya sentenced local journalist Zhalaudi Geriev, who worked for the Caucasian Knot news outlet, to three years in prison on dubious drug possession charges. Responding to the verdict, Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, stated 'We have no doubt that Geriev is being punished for his work as a journalist and hope that justice will prevail on appeal.'
Human Rights Watch reports: 'Chechen police detained Geriev, 23, on the morning of April 16. The journalist told the court that three armed men dragged him out of a shuttle bus en route from the town of Kurchaloi to Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, from which he intended to travel on to Moscow for work-related purposes. The assailants entered the shuttle bus, hit him on his head, and dragged him into their car, a black Priora sedan, he said. They took away his two phones and his backpack with his identification documents, a laptop, and other personal belongings, tied his hands with wire, and drove him to a forest 35 kilometers from Grozny, in the Kurchaloi district of Chechnya. Geriev’s kidnappers questioned him in the forest for another 30 to 40 minutes, asking him about his work, threatening him, and insinuating he was “on the run” to join ISIS. Then, another man arrived in a Priora vehicle, pulled a plastic bag tightly over Geriev’s head, took it off when Geriev was about to suffocate, and finally drove off, taking Geriev’s backpack with him. Then, Geriev’s kidnappers took him to a cemetery on the outskirts of the town of Kurchaloi. They had him officially “detained” there and taken into police custody supposedly with a large package of marijuana in his backpack, forcing him to sign a confession stating the drugs in his backpack belonged to him. Geriev withdrew his confession during his trial in the Shali District Court of Chechnya, alleging that it was false and made under duress. The court failed to consider his allegations. Following a trial in which little if any evidence beyond his retracted confession was introduced, the court found Geriev guilty of “possession of banned substances in large quantities”.' Geriev will appeal the sentence.
Photo: Zhalaudi Geriev, Moscow 2014. © 2014 Magomed Tuaev for Caucasian Knot, via Human Rights Watch
Source: 'Russia: Journalist Punished for Chechnya Reporting. Sweeping Pre-Election Crackdown,' Human Rights Watch, 6 September, 2016