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Mother of Chechen human rights activists Zarema Musayeva sentenced to 5.5 years in penal colony

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Zarema Musayeva, the wife of former Chechen Supreme Court judge Saidi Yangulbayev and mother of Chechen human rights defenders Abubakar, Ibrahim and Baysangur Yangulbayev, has been sentenced to 5.5 years in a penal colony for “using violence against a police officer,” according to a report by the Crew Against Torture.

The court found Musayeva guilty of “fraud” (Article 159 of Russia’s Criminal Code) and “violence against a representative of authority” (Article 318 of Russia’s Criminal Code).

Despite the defense's request for a postponement of the verdict due to the attack on lawyer Alexander Nemov – Musayeva's defense attorney – the court rejected the plea. Musayeva was eventually represented by Alexander Savin in court, a lawyer from the Crew Against Torture.

On July 4, during the announcement of the verdict, unknown attackers targeted journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov, who had arrived to report on the court session. While en route from the airport, armed individuals in three cars blocked their vehicle, assaulted them, and stole their equipment. Milashina sustained broken fingers during an attempt to obtain her phone's password, along with a diagnosed closed head injury. Following the assault on the journalist and lawyer, Zarema Musaeva’s defenders submitted a request for her protection to Grozny’s Akhmatovsky District Court, as shared by media personality Ksenia Sobchak.

Alexander Nemov before the assault (left) and Zarema Musayeva (right)
Alexander Nemov before the assault (left) and Zarema Musayeva (right)

Zarema Musayeva has been imprisoned in Grozny's pre-trial detention center for more than a year. Her case began in January 2022, when Chechen law enforcers broke into the Musayev family apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers from Chechnya. Musayeva’s husband, retired judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and their sons, human rights activists Abubakar and Ibrahim, regularly criticized the Ramzan Kadyrov regime.

Abubakar Yangulbayev has accused Kadyrov's law enforcement and security officers of “lawlessness on a daily basis” and said the case against his mother is Kadyrov's personal retaliation for his activities.

Kadyrov and multiple other Chechen officials, including a member of the Russian State Duma, have publicly vowed to kill all members of the Yangulbayev family, calling them “terrorists.”

Due to his judicial immunity, security forces were unable to carry out the planned abduction of Yangulbaev Sr. However, they detained Musaeva under the pretext of her alleged involvement as a witness in a fraud case in Grozny. The investigation claims that she scratched the face of one of the law enforcement officers during her detention. The claim led to a case being opened against her for “violence against a representative of the authorities, posing a threat to their life and well-being.”

On June 5, Musayeva was hospitalized. After spending a year and a half in a pre-trial detention facility, her eyesight worsened, and she experiences limited mobility due to persistent back pain. Additionally, her son mentioned that she has second-degree diabetes, which needs continuous monitoring and treatment.

Baisangur Yangulbayev and his brother Ibrahim left Russia in 2021. Abubakar fled Russia in December 2022. Their father, retired federal Judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and their sister Aliya, fled Russia in early 2022 fearing for their safety.

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