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Reversal in Yevloyev Case Further Erodes Russian Press Freedom
H.E. Dmitri Medvedev
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.6277/ 5173
H.E. Vladimir Putin
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.4622, 205.4219
Yet again, Russia’s courts have made a mockery of your repeated promises to respect the principles of press freedom and protect Russian journalists as they try to keep Russia’s citizens informed about events in your country. In this case, the police officer who killed the journalist, Magomed Y. Yevloyev, has had his sentence reduced to a laughable two years of extremely lenient house arrest.
The facts in the case are undisputed. As summarized by our colleagues at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Yevloyev was a well-known critic of the policies of then-Ingushetia President Murat Zyazikov and his government. Through his Website, Ingushetiya, Yevloyev exposed high-level regional corruption. On August 31, 2008, guards of the Interior Ministry arrested the journalist without a warrant shortly after his Moscow-Ingushetia flight landed at Magas airport. Yevloyev was on the same flight as President Zyazikov, and the two had reportedly argued aboard the plane. In the police car on the way to Ingushetia’s largest city, Nazran, one of the arresting officers, Interior Minister Musa Medov’s nephew, Ibragim Yevloyev (who was not related to the victim), shot and killed the publisher. Within hours of the killing, Ingushetia and Moscow authorities sided with the shooter’s account, and declared that the publisher had been killed accidentally after he tried to seize a gun from one of three officers in the car.
This account is at best implausible, and further loses credibility because a forensic analysis dated September 15, 2008, showed the journalist had been shot at point-blank range in his temple. Despite this evidence, which the victim’s family said clearly pointed to a pre-meditated murder, prosecutors charged the killer only with negligent homicide. In December, 2009, the Karabulak City Court in Ingushetia sentenced the gunman to two years in a low-security prison settlement. The shooter, Ibragim Yevloyev, who was re-assigned to Moscow, did not attend any of the court proceedings. The other two officers present at the crime scene were questioned only from behind a closed door, their identities kept secret. According to the lawyers for Yakhya Yevloyev, the publisher’s father and a key plaintiff in the case, the two gave conflicting accounts.
Making the court proceedings even less credible, the business daily, Kommersant, has reported that several months after the killing, an Interior Ministry investigator acknowledged that he had signed an arrest warrant for Magomed Yevloyev after the journalist had already been detained and shot. This information — which points to an official cover-up — has had no follow-up. The victim’s family appealed to the Supreme Court of Ingushetia, asking that the case be re-investigated. Instead, the court replaced the gunman’s sentence with a two-year “restriction of freedom” term.
The “restriction of freedom” provision is a relatively new penalty in the Russian criminal code. It provides that the convicted are given a curfew after which they must not leave their home; are forbidden to leave town; are banned from attending mass gatherings; and are not allowed to change their address and work place without permission from the penitentiary service in their place of residence. The Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended press freedom around the world for more than seventy years, joins the CPJ in concluding that this ludicrous “punishment” only reinforces Russia’s chronic impunity for the murderers of journalists.
We remind you that since 2000, when Vladimir Putin took office as president, at least seventeen journalists have been murdered because of their work or have died under suspicious circumstances. In only one instance have the killers of these journalists been convicted. In every case, the masterminds remain unpunished.
It is now up to Russia’s Supreme Court to reverse the Ingushetia court’s perverse decision in the Yevloyev case. We urge you both to exert your authority to begin a new investigation of this entire case and thus restore some credence to your pledges of protection for journalists doing their duty in Russia.
Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Sergey V. Lavrov
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Fax: (011.7.495) 244.3448
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York, NY 10021
Fax: (212) 628.0252
Aleksey K. Simonov
Glasnost Defense Foundation
4 Zubovskiy Boulevard, # 432
Fax: (011.7.495) 637.4947
The Moscow Times
Ul. Polkovaya 3, Bldg. 1
H.E. Yuriy V. Ushakov
Ambassador of Russia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735
First Dep. Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation
c/o Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735
H.E. William J. Burns
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy
Pereulok, Moscow 121099
Fax: (011.7.495) 728.5090
Andrey V. Vasilyev
4 Vrubelya Street