Death in an Austrian prison

Open letter to the Austrian President,  Dr. Heinz Fischer

 Dear Mr. President:

We at the Anna Politkovskaya Memorial Fund (USA), as well as at the Massachusetts Branch of the American Association of Jews from the former Soviet Union, are deeply upset and frustrated about the death on 27 September 2012 in an Austrian prison pretrial facility of a 35-year-old Chechen man, Zelimkhan Isakov, who fled from the murderous regime of the Putin-installed puppet, Ramzan Kadyrov, as a former participant of the Chechen Resistance, and who was seeking asylum in the Austrian Republic. This is at least the third death known to us of a Chechen asylum-seeker in Austria. First, Umar Israilov was killed in the center of Vienna on 13 January 2009 after he had been refused protection by the Austrian police, despite his complaints about threats to him after he had sued Kadyrov at the European Court for Human Rights. Second, Arslan Duzhiev was found hanged in a detention center for illegal immigrants in Austria: he committed suicide after he received a third refusal on his asylum application and was threatened with imminent deportation to Russia.

The death of Zelimkhan Isakov is similar in many ways to the death in a Russian prison of the Moscow lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who represented a London investment company, Hermitage Capital, after he had revealed a $203 million fraud by Russian officials. His tragic story has been widely published, as a result of which the Putin regime has received worldwide condemnation. The 37-year-old Sergey Magnitsky was denied any medical care and the medications he so acutely needed, and was left to die in the pretrial facility of Matrosskaya Tishina prison  in Moscow. But his colleagues, friends and HR activists will not allow this KGB crime to be forgotten and unpunished. In the USA the “Magnitsky Committee” was created, and it has been working on revealing those who are guilty in the death of Magnitsky. So far they have listed nearly 60 Russian GUFSIN (formerly GULAG) staff and prison workers. On 27 July 2011 the US Department of State confirmed the information that appeared in the Washington Post about visa and other sanctions for these Russian officials whose names are in the so-called “Magnitsky list.”

We hope that the Austrian authorities and personally you, Mr. President, can find those Austrian officials who are guilty in the death of Zelimkhan Isakov. And we hope that an “Isakov list” will be made in order to punish them. We also hope that civilized and democratic Austria will not follow a Russian pattern of bringing to death people in pretrial facilities before any trial or court decision.

Below is a summary of Zelimkhan Isakov’s story:

On 30 June 2012  Zelimkan Isakov (born in 1977)  was on his way back home in Vienna after visiting his brother. He was stopped by the Austrian police in the center of Vienna for checking his ID. To his great misfortune Zelimkhan didn’t have at that moment any document to prove his ID. He was taken to a police station. Soon his identity was cleared up, but the Police didn’t release him, continuing to keep him there on the pretext that he had been refused asylum by the Austrian Immigration Service. Zelimkhan objected that he legally still had time to make an appeal to higher institutions. There was no reaction from the Police; on the contrary, a while later Zelimkhan was informed that he had to be deported to Russia, as having had two “negatives” on his asylum application.

We are wondering whether a question about deportation of  a person to Russia has to be decided by the Police? And whether the absence of an ID at the moment is so severe a crime that it must be punished by detention and deportation?

The announcement about deportation was extremely stressful for Zelimkhan. In the pretrial cell he asked several times for medication but was not given any. Zelimkhan’s health condition was already damaged because back in Chechnya he had been subjected to tortures and brutal beating at the hands of Kadyrov’s men. The threat of deportation made Zelimkhan quickly deteriorate. By no means could he return to Chechnya, either forcibly or voluntarily: those who had once previously fallen into the hands of Kadyrov’s men, no matter for how long, by Kadyrov’s determination, must be exterminated: killed or detained or just kidnapped and “disappeared.” This is the philosophy of the Kadyrov regime, and the world should understand it. Moreover, by the same philosophy most of the relatives of such must-be-exterminated people should be also punished.

The Austrian police didn’t react to the quickly deteriorating Zelimkhan’s health. He was illegally kept for 2 months and 27 days. After that, the tragedy happened. Isakov died from the lack of medication which he acutely needed. He just was left to die.

We urge you again to launch a detailed investigation into the case of Zelimkhan Isakov, in order to make an “Isakov list” and to punish those who are responsible for the death of Zelimkhan Isakov.

Victoria Poupko,  PhD

Director of Anna Politkovskaya Memorial Fund

President   of MA AA Jews

E-mail: vpoupko@gmail.com

Oct.10, 2012

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