Abdulmumin Gadzhiev

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Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, editor of the religious section of independent Russian outlet Chernovik, is serving a 17-year prison sentence after being convicted by a Russian court on charges of financing terrorism, participating in a terrorist organization, and organizing the activity of an extremist organization. Russian authorities detained him in June 2019. The journalist’s colleagues said they believe the charges stem from Gadzhiev’s 2013 interview with Israil Ahmednabiev, who was later accused of terrorism by Russian authorities.

Gadzhiev covered issues related to Islam in the Chernovik section that he edited, including explaining the basics of the religion, Islamic finance, and the economy. The issues are sensitive in Russia’s North Caucasus, where many men were recruited to the Islamic State militant group during the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. 

On June 14, 2019, the security services in the Russian republic of Dagestan detained Gadzhiev in the city of Makhachkala on terrorism charges, according to Chernovik and other media reports. They searched his home and seized phones and computers, according to his employer and a report by Radio Svoboda, the Russian service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/FL).

On June 22, 2023, a prosecutor accused Gadzhiev of participating in three terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State, and transferring 16,000 rubles (US$245) to the Islamic State. 

Chernovik reported that it believes the charges are in retaliation for Gadzhiev’s work. The charges stem from a May 2013 Chernovik article in which Gadzhiev interviewed Ahmednabiev and reported about the Ansar charitable foundation. Authorities claimed that Gadzhiev’s reporting on Ansar — which the prosecution accused of funding the militant Islamic State group and two other organizations labeled as terrorist — influenced readers to financially support those groups. 

“Nowhere in the article is any mention of the aforementioned terrorist organizations, nor any calls or hints to fund or support them,” Magomed Magomedov, deputy editor-in-chief of Chernovik, told CPJ via messaging app in June 2023.

Gadzhiev was one of several people arrested since 2018 for alleged ties to Ahmednabiev, whom Russian authorities charged in 2014 with supporting terrorism, accusing him of financing terrorist organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, and issued an international arrest warrant for him, according to Kavkaz.Realii, the Caucasus-focused project of RFE/FL. Ahmednabiev was living in Turkey as of late 2022.

On June 28, 2019, following Gadzhiev’s arrest, Ahmednabiev posted a video on YouTube in which he denied helping terrorists and called the charges against those arrested “absurd” and “groundless.” 

On June 16, 2019, Kemal Tambiev, a businessman who was detained on similar charges on the same day as the journalist, said at a court hearing that he was beaten in detention and forced to testify against Gadzhiev, Kavkaz.Realii reported. Gadzhiev said at the hearing that he did not know Tambiev. Tambiev appeared with bruises on his face, independent media and rights-related news site Mediazona reported.

Gadzhiev’s lawyer, Asad Jabirov, was quoted by the regional independent news website Kavkazsky Uzel as saying that his defense team was denied access to Gadzhiev to prepare his defense on several occasions.

Law enforcement raided the Chernovik offices on October 2, 2019, and seized all equipment, including hard drives, in connection with the investigation into the journalist, according to the paper. 

On March 27, 2020, authorities filed new charges against Gadzhiev, accusing him of participating in a terrorist organization, according to Mediazona

On November 25, 2022, Chernovik announced that it had suspended the printed version of the paper. “Printing houses are unwillingly refusing to print it and the authorities put pressure on the paper’s distributors and advertisers,” Chernovik’s statement said, adding that it believes the suspension was “politically motivated pressure on the newspaper by the authorities in Dagestan, who are not capable of fair and legal opposition in the information field.” 

On September 12, 2023, the Yuzhnyy Military Court in the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don convicted Gadzhiev — who denied the allegations — of financing terrorism, participating in a terrorist organization, and organizing the activity of an extremist organization. 

Gadzhiev is to serve the first seven years in prison and the rest of his sentence in a penal colony, Magomedov told CPJ, adding that the journalist will appeal the sentence. 

One of the three judges involved in Gadzhiev’s trial criticized the verdict in a dissenting opinion, according to media reports.

During the multiple hearings in Gadzhiev’s case, many witnesses denied the testimony that prosecutors claim they had given during the investigation, according to multiple media reports.

Magomedov told CPJ in October 2023 that Gadzhiev was being held in a pretrial detention in Novocherkassk, in Rostov region, pending his appeal. Magomedov said Gadzhiev’s health and psychological state were “normal,” and that he was “full of optimism.”

In October 2023, CPJ emailed the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office for comment but did not receive any replies.