Prisoners of Conscience: Zarifa Sautieva, Ingushetia, Russia
In September 2018 border posts along the Ingushetia-Chechnya border mysteriously began to move. Later, it turned out that presidents of the two Russian republics in North Caucasus – Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov had struck a closed-doors deal. The secret trade of territory, which some Ingush see as unfavourable to their country, sparked a wave of protests, calling for a halt of the land transfer. The tensions ultimately led to the resignation of Yevkurov who had ruled the region for more than a decade.
While the wave of rallies in the republic’s capital Magas also spread to other Russian cities, Ingush authorities tried to crack down on protests. Police arrested dozens of demonstrators, including activists and journalists, accusing them of provoking civil unrest and violence towards law enforcement. Among those prosecuted is Zarifa Sautieva, an activist and former deputy director of the Museum of Victims of Political Repression in Ingushetia.
She was detained in July 2019 for allegedly attacking a police officer and was placed under pre-trial detention. Sautieva, the only female protester arrested, has been a regular at the demonstrations and often times broadcasted the rallies live on social media.
In September 2020 a court in Stavropol ruled that Sautieva’s detention between September and December 2019 was illegal, her lawyer Bilan Dzugaev told local media. He also said the case against her is politically motivated and based on trumped-up charges.
Sautieva believes her participation in the rallies cost her the job in a museum. In November 2018, a month after the start of the protest, she learned that she would be dismissed from her position as deputy director starting January. She challenged the sacking in court and was reinstalled back in March 2020. Two months later, however, the museum’s new director fired her again.
Despite many calls to release Sautieva as well as petitions in her support, the activist is under house arrest since March 2021 awaiting her trial. In the meantime, Russian human rights center Memorial has recognized her as a political prisoner.
Disclaimer: As of March 31, 2021, research shows that Zarifa Sautieva is still under house arrest, awaiting her trial.
Note: Some Western publications refer to her as Zarifa Sautiyeva.
Prisoners of Conscience from East and Southeast Europe
We feature select few prisoners of conscience out of the many in East and Southeast Europe. One political prisoner is one too many.
Find out who the other political prisoners are #PrisonersofConscience #FreeThemAll and in the special Focus on our website.