Abdulmumin Gadzhiev

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Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, the editor of independent Russian outlet Chernovik’s religion section, was detained on terrorism charges on June 14, 2019. On March 27, 2020, Russian authorities filed additional terrorism charges, and in September ordered his detention extended. The journalist’s colleagues said they believe the charges stem from his 2009 interview with Israil Ahmednabiev, whom Russian authorities later accused of terrorism.

Gadzhiev covered issues related to Islam in the Chernovik section that he edited, including explaining the basics of the religion, Islamic finance, and 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, according to his employer and other media reports. They searched his home and seized phones and computers, according to his employer and news reports

Gadzhiev’s lawyer said that the journalist was facing criminal charges of financing a terrorist organization for allegedly wiring money to Ahmednabiev. Russian authorities accuse Ahmednabiev in turn of financing terrorist organizations, according to news website MBK N Gadews. Gadzhiev denied the charges, according to reports

Chernovik reported that it believes the charges are in retaliation for Gadzhiev’s work.

The charges stem from the November 2009 article in Chernovik in which Gadzhiev interviewed Ahmednabiev, then a student, in a small Dagestani village of Novo-Sasitli, the paper’s founder Magdi Kamalov told the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy. In the interview, Ahmednabiev talked about his study of Islam in Syria in 2000 and shared his plans to get a doctorate degree in Islamic studies, Kamalov said.

In 2014, Russian authorities charged Ahmednabiev 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 the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Since 2018, authorities have arrested several people for alleged ties to Ahmednabiev, including Gadzhiev, according to the same report. 

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

On June 16, Kemal Tambiev, a businessman who was detained on similar charges the same day as the journalist, appeared before a judge and said 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.

On July 3, 2019, a court in Dagestan denied Gadzhiev’s request to transfer him to house arrest. The journalist’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.

On October 2, law enforcement raided the offices of Chernovik and seized all equipment including hard drives in connection with the investigation into the journalist, according to the paper. On November 12, 2019, a court extended Gadzhiev’s detention until January 13, 2020, according to Kavkazsky Uzel

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

On September 22, 2021, Chernovik deputy chief editor Magomed Magomedov told CPJ in a phone interview that Gadzhiev was being held in a detention facility in Rostov-on-Don. Magomedov also said that Gadzhiev will be tried by a military court.

If convicted of financing a terrorist organization, Gadzhiev could face up to 10 years in prison; if convicted of participating in one, he could face an additional 20 years, according to the Russian penal code.

On October 14, 2021, Yuzhniy Military Court in Rostov-on-Don extended Gadzhiev’s detention until January 28, 2022, reports said. 

Magomedov told CPJ that Gadzhiev had a minor lung problem in early 2021 but was otherwise in good health.

CPJ called Nadir Televov, the investigator in Gadzhiev’s case, but he refused to comment. CPJ emailed Russia’s prosecutor general’s office for comment, but did not receive any response.