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Magamed Abubakarov: lawyer getting death threats by text

Defence lawyer Magamed Abubakarov has been getting anonymous text messages containing death threats.

Update: 28 February
Good news! The Russian authorities have just opened an investigation into the threats Magamed received earlier this month. Thanks to the thousands of you who sent messages to the Russian authorities.
The Nalchik regional representative of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched a criminal investigation into the texts. We are still urging the Russian authorities to ensure the Ministry's inquiry is timely, independent and constructive, and we hope that Magamed will be able to continue with his legal work without further harassment while the authorities bring those who have threatened him to justice.
Thank you again for sending messages in support of Magamed. And remember - the more people in our Pocket Protest network, the more we can achieve, so why not get your friends involved? They can sign up here.

Magamed is known for taking on some of the most sensitive criminal cases in the North Caucasus region of Russia, a brave step in an area where police are regularly accused of human rights abuses against suspects and the lawyers who dare to defend them. He has received threats relating to his work before, and in 2011 was involved in a suspicious car accident involving police. Read more background to this case

The latest threats in the form of text messages from an unknown number began on 6 February 2013.  The sender demanded to know where Magamed was and told him he wouldn’t be able to hide. The threats continued after Magamed reported them to police with one saying – in far more abusive language:

‘The time to [talk] is over… [you will be talking] in a mortuary.’

Police have failed to properly interview Magamed about the text messages, let alone find out who is sending them or put a stop to the intimidation.

We’re calling on them to investigate the threats, and to ensure that all lawyers in the region are able to do their work ensuring suspects get a fair trial and standing up to a culture of abductions and torture committed in the name of security.

Background to this action

Law enforcement in the North Caucasus

Magamed Abubakarov is originally from Chechnya and now works in Kabaradino-Balkaria, another of the republics of the North Caucasus region. Everyday life in the North Caucasus is volatile and insecure, with armed groups frequently attacking civilians and local officials.

North Caucasus

The authorities’ response to the attacks tends to be heavy-handed. There are frequent reports of human rights violations against people expected of involvement in armed groups, including executions without trial, secret detention and torture of suspects. Read our latest research on the region

The law enforcement agencies' heavy-handed treatment has also extended to the lawyers who defend those accused of belonging to armed groups. One of Magamed’s colleagues, Rustam Matsev – the subject of another of our Urgent Actions – received a death threat from a senior police officer calling on his client to withdraw a complaint of abduction. A lawyer in nearby Dagestan was killed in the streets by security forces. The respective authorities have refused to investigate either the killing or death threats.

Magamed known for taking on sensitive cases

Despite all this, Magamed Abubakarov has dared to taken on some of the most sensitive criminal cases in the region, involving allegations against the police of abduction, torture and fabrication of charges. He has also drawn attention to his work by giving interviews to the media and has worked with several human rights organisations, including Amnesty.

Our supporters have previously campaigned on behalf of one of Magamed clients – Rasul Kudaev, a former Guantánamo prisoner who alleged torture and ill-treatment at the hands of local officials. It was exactly around the time he took on on Rasul Kudaev’s case in 2007 that Magamed began to receive threats in connection with his work. Since then, threats have been regular.

On 15 December 2011 Magamed was badly injured when a car drove into him at full speed, crushing his leg and hospitalising him for several months. Just before he was hit by the car, he had been stopped by armed, masked police who asked to see his documents then told him to open the boot of his car. Initially he thought it was an accident, but Magamed became increasingly suspicious when the police did nothing to find the driver responsible, and wouldn’t let him see the police file on the incident.

Taking action by text

What will we do with your name?

We will add your name, but not your phone number, to a co-signed fax which will send to the Russian authorities, urging them to:

  • investigate Magamed Abubakarov’s complaints about the anonymous threats he has been receiving, and identify and prosecute the person(s) behind them; 
  • ensure that criminal defence lawyers in the North Caucasus are able to discharge their functions with intimidation, hindrance and harassment, including from members of law enforcement agencies.

Prefer not to text?

If you prefer to write your own message, you will find all the details you need including more information on the case and the names and full contact details of the relevant authorities in the casesheet. Download the urgent action casesheet (Word)

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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