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— 12 ноября 2012 г. —

Attempt to Deport the Golyanovo Slaves Fails

What’s Next?

On November 8, 2012 Damir Samerhanov, investigator of Moscow’s Preobrazhenskoe Division, summoned for questioning the migrants who were freed just over a week ago from having been held as slave workers by the owners of a grocery store in the Moscow suburb of Golyanovo.

Among those attending the summons were Mutabarhon Abdullayeva and Zarina Ashirova, who at the time were yet to be recognized as victims and who were accompanied by their attorneys, as well as Bakiya Kasimova and Leila Ashirova, who at this time were already included as victims in a case of “Unlawful deprivation of liberty”. It appears, however, that the investigator had quite different plans.

Upon the young women’s arrival in company of the attorneys Gulnara Bobodzhanova, Emil Taubalatov, and Irina Biriukova (invited to take part in the case by the Civic Assistance Committee and the Human Rights Center Memorial) at 10 am that morning, the questioning did not take place. The investigator Smerhanov informed them that he has yet to confirm his investigation team and requested everyone to wait in the corridor to be called. At about 12:30 pm the investigator invited everyone into his office and announced that the applicants should proceed to the Golianovo police department where they will be charged with the administrative violation “Illegal stay in the Russian Federation.”

“In vain were all our attempts to explain, that in order to be charged with this violation there must be a presence of guilt, of which there is none in this case, as the applicants are recognized as victims in a criminal case under the Article “Unlawful deprivation of liberty”, in other words they did not have a real opportunity to inform migration services of their stay in the Russian Federation nor leave its territory in due time,” said the lawyer Gulnara Bobodzhanova.

The attorneys started dissiminating information in the media about what was going on at the Preobrazhensky Division very soon journalists and activists gathered near the investigative office. The young women who were recently released from slavery felt sick and the attorneys called a doctor. One of the victims had to be carried to the ambulance van. All the young women were taken to medical facilities in Moscow. Bobodzhanova said, “I am afraid this may happen again, and more than once. After all, if this case get under way, many may lose their posts.” Gulnara Bobodzhanova submitted request demanding that her clients be recognized as victims in the case. She plans to make a formal complaint against the investigator based on his actions and has requested to transfer the investigation of this case to a different investigative division. Attorney Taubulatov plans to submit a request to recognize as “victim” Baurzhan Kasimov, the child of Bakia Kasimova. The five-year-old boy is physically developed at a level of a three year old, has difficulty walking and doesn’t speak. The child was taken away from him mother by one of the storeowners to be raised by a third party. Her motivation was obvious: she wanted for Bakia to not be distracted by her son so she would be able to continue her work in the store as she has.

On October 30, 2012 a group of activists and human rights defenders with assistance from several journalists freed eleven people from a room in the “Produkty” grocery store on Novosibirskaya Street in the Golianovo suburb of Moscow’s East district. One woman refused to leave. Nine women and three men, citizens of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tadjikistan were held captive for periods from five and up to ten years in the store. The police officers that arrived at the scene had delivered the freed slaves to the Golianovo police station where they were interrogated over fourteen hours without food or rest. The officers waited for activists and others to disperse so they could return the migrants to the storeowners, as they have done more than once in the past. The director of the station Sergey Chesalov actively participated in all that took place. However, activists and journalists that remained outside the station have pressured the police to release the freed slaves.

The storeowners and spouses Zhansula Istanbekova and Saken Muzdybaev and their relatives threatened and beat up the captive workers. According to the released, they were not allowed outside, had their documents and mobile phones take away, were not paid work wages for years, and were severely beaten.

On November 1 the Federal Investigative Committee (СКР) promised to conduct a “pre-investigation fact checking” of the information communicated by the mass media on this case. The CKP’s released statement has the following passage: the store is supposedly “lacking a basement room where according to the applicants they were illegally held.” And yet, the case was filed last week under the Criminal Code Article 127, “Unlawful deprivation of liberty of two or more persons”.

As the media reported more than once, the grocery store itself is situated in a basement location; therefore the bewilderment expressed by the CKP at the “lack of a basement room” only inspires bewilderment in return.

The attorneys are demanding to re-qualify the case to Article 127.2, or “Use of slave labour with aggravated circumstances of utilizing black mail and violence”.

Shop owners Istanbekova and Muzdybaev were questioned by an investigator and released. According to civil society activists, the owners are exerting pressure on their former workers and are trying to destroy evidence.

November 12, 2012













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