Political Prisoners in Today’s Russia – Zara Murtazaliyeva By Grigory Pasko It looks like the only thing Zara is guilty of is that she is a Chechen and that in its day, open season on Chechens was declared in Russia, unofficially, of course. In 2003, after her father’s death, Zara Murtazaliyeva, a student in her third year at the Pyatigorsk Linguistic University, was forced to leave full-time studies and switch to the extension learning department in order to find a job to help her mother support the family. The twenty-year-old girl came to Moscow. She started working at an insurance company, and became friends with two Moscow girls. Soon officers of the Main Administration of Internal Affairs of Moscow took Zara into development [a KGB term meaning she was put under total surveillance—Trans.]. For more than two months, the law-enforcement organs kept the girls under continual surveillance, video cameras recorded their every word and movement. Zara was watched constantly. On 4 March 2004, twenty-year old third-year student of the Linguistic University of the city of Pyatigorsk, native of Naursky Rayon of the Chechen Republic Zara Murtazaliyeva was detained. The girl was delivered to the “Prospekt Vernadskogo” Branch of Internal Affairs, where explosives were planted on her, and a criminal case was initiated against her herself under Article 222, part 1 of the Criminal Code of the RF for unlawful acquisition, storage, and conveyance of explosive substances. However, the prosecution did not limit itself to this, and Zara was inculpated in the preparation of a terrorist act and in recruuiting her roommates Anna Kulikova and Daria Voronova for terrorist activities. On 17 January 2005, a court sentenced Zara Murtazaliyeva to 9 years of deprivation of liberty with the sentence to be served in a general regime penal colony. Zara was found guilty under 3 Articles: Article 205, part 1 note of the CC RF (recruitment for terrorist activities), Article 205, part 1 of the CC RF (preparation of a terrorist act), and Article 222 of the CC RF (storage of explosive substances). The defence considers that the prosecution did not provide any evidence of the guilt of the defendant, and the assertions of the procurator represent a personal opinion. The court issued a guilty verdict, not having taken into consideration a single one of the defence arguments about the circumstances exculpating the defendant and the multitude of procedural violations during the time of the preliminary investigation. Russian human rights advocates have appealed numerous times with calls to take note of the fabrication of the criminal case against the Chechen girl. A multitude of appeals have indicated: “We are convinced that Zara Murtazaliyeva has been convicted unlawfully and for political motives”. However, the authorities of the country have ignored all declarations and demands for a review of the criminal case. A causational appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of the RF, which likewise ignored the obvious absurdity of the charges and, leaving all the charges in force, reduced the term of confinement to 8.5 years. Since 12 April, Zara Murtazaliyeva is serving a sentence in women’s penal colony ZhKh-385/13 in the settlement of Partsa at the Potma station of Zubovo-Polyansky Rayon.