Vilnius, Lithuania, April 14, 2020 — Authorities in the Russian republic of Dagestan should immediately release journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev and drop all the charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Security agents in Makhachkala, the capital, arrested Gadzhiev, who edited the religious section of the independent Chernovik newspaper, on terrorism charges on June 14, 2019; he has been held since in pre-trial detention, as CPJ documented at the time.
On March 27, authorities filed new charges against Gadzhiev, accusing him of participation in an extremist organization, according to Chernovik chief editor Mairbek Agaev, who spoke to CPJ via phone, and news reports. Agaev said he learned about the new charges today, and said he believed they were in retaliation for Gadzhiev’s journalism.
If convicted of participating in an extremist organization, Gadzhiev could face up to 10 years in prison under the Russian criminal code. If convicted on the original terrorism charges, he could face another 20 years, according to that code.
“Authorities in Dagestan should stop cooking up new charges against journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, and instead should release him immediately,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “As the COVID-19 virus has spread into the Northern Caucasus and will inevitably hit its prisons, holding a journalist in custody on absurd charges means putting their life at even greater danger.”
Agaev told CPJ that he believed authorities “invented” the new charges against Gadzhiev because “the first case is falling apart due to lack of evidence.”
When CPJ called the Investigative Committee of Dagestan in Makhachkala, a press officer who introduced himself as Rasul said, “if another case was opened, it means there were reasons for it.” He refused to elaborate.
In late March, CPJ wrote an open letter to world leaders urging them to immediately release all journalists behind bars amid the coronavirus pandemic.