Magomed Yevloyev

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On August 31, 2008, Magomed Yevloyev, 37, owner of the popular news Web site Ingushetiya, was killed in police custody. Yevloyev died from a gunshot wound to the head sustained while being transported by Ingushetia police following his arrest at the airport in the regional capital, Magas. Ingushetia police immediately called the shooting an accident, saying Yevloyev had tried to take a gun from one of the arresting officers. Yevloyev’s relatives, colleagues, and friends told CPJ they believe he was murdered to silence the website, one of the few remaining independent news sources in Ingushetia.

Yevloyev had just gotten off a flight from Moscow when he was arrested at about 1:30 p.m., according to a colleague who was present at the scene but asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. Yevloyev, who lived in Moscow with his family, was traveling to Ingushetia to visit his parents and friends. Around 20 relatives and friends had gathered at Magas airport to greet the journalist.

Shortly before leaving the plane, Yevloyev sent a text message to Magomed Khazbiyev, a friend and local opposition activist, telling him that he had shared the flight with Ingushetia President Murat Zyazikov, the friend told CPJ. After the presidential motorcade left the airport, six armored vehicles approached the plane, Khazbiyev said. A group of armed police officers approached Yevloyev and placed him in a UAZ van. "They did not handcuff him, and he did not resist them," Khazbiyev told CPJ.

The daily Kommersant reported that Ingushetia police said they had detained Yevloyev as a witness in a criminal investigation into an August explosion at the home of a regional administration official.

When they saw Yevloyev had been detained, Khazbiyev said, friends followed the vehicles in their own cars. After the police vehicles left the airport, they split into two columns and took different directions. Khazbiyev and Yevloyev’s relatives and friends followed the group heading toward Ingushetia’s main city, Nazran. "We followed them for about 20 minutes until we almost reached Nazran’s city limits," Khazbiyev told CPJ. When the cars stopped, it became clear Yevloyev was not there. "We have no blood on our hands," one police officer told them, Khazbiyev told CPJ.

Ingushetia police said that shortly after the journalist was placed in one of their vans, Yevloyev tried to wrestle away a gun belonging to one of the arresting officers. The gun went off, police said, striking Yevloyev in the temple. Police brought Yevloyev to a Nazran hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman with the investigative committee of Russia’s prosecutor general’s office, told journalists in September 2008 that a criminal case has been opened and the case has been categorized as "murder by negligence." The statement left unclear whether regional or federal prosecutors would be in charge of the probe.

Yevloyev’s website was well known to human rights and press freedom groups in Russia and abroad as a reliable source for information in the tightly controlled Republic of Ingushetia in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region. Ingushetiya had reported on governmental corruption, human rights abuses, unemployment, and a string of unsolved disappearances and killings in recent months. The site covered anti-government protests and had called for Zyazikov’s resignation.

On June 6, a district court in Moscow ordered the closure of Ingushetiya for alleged extremism. Yevloyev told CPJ at the time that he believed authorities wanted the site closed because of its critical coverage. Yevloyev told CPJ that Ingushetia authorities had launched more than a dozen lawsuits against the website in the past year. Despite the court’s decision, Yevloyev and his colleagues continued to publish Ingushetiya, whose server was based in the United States.

In August, Ingushetiya Editor-in-Chief Roza Malsagova fled Russia after enduring harassment, threats, and beatings at the hands of Ingushetia authorities. Faced with a politically motivated criminal case on charges of "incitement of ethnic hatred" and "distribution of extremist materials," Malsagova sought asylum in Western Europe.

On December 11, 2009, a Karabulek city court sentenced the former head of the Ingushetia Ministry of Interior, Ibrahim Yevloyev, to two years in a penal colony for Yevloyev’s murder, the New York Times and Russian human rights group Memorial reported.

On March 2, 2010, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia changed the sentence to two years of house arrest, claiming that the shooting was “involuntary,” according to the same report by Memorial and the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel.

On August 4, 2010, Ibrahim Yevloyev was shot by an unknown assailant on a Nazran street, and later died of his injuries, news website Kommersant reported.

The journalist is survived by a wife and three children.