Russia - Dagestan journalist's investigative work holds key to his murder

Published on Tuesday 9 July 2013.

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn of the murder in Dagestan of Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev (Ахмеднаби Ахмеднабиев), deputy editor of the weekly Novoe Delo. The 55-year-old journalist was shot several times in cold blood today by an unidentified killer near his home the Caucasus village of Semender. Investigators said they believed the most likely motive appeared to be the victim’s work as a journalist.

“The Russian Caucasus has lost a first-class journalist who tackled difficult subjects such as human right violations and electoral fraud,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We with to convey our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

“It is imperative that the Dagestan justice authorities get to the bottom of this crime. In many attacks and murders, the local and federal authorities have unfortunately not always shown the necessary determination to put an end to violence against journalists. The justice authorities must do all in their power to end this spiral of violence against those involved in news and information.”

Akhmednabiev was driving away from his house in the Makhachkala about 7:30 a.m. today when he came under fire. He died instantly. An inquiry has been opened into his murder, as well as damage and destruction of property and arms trafficking under the Russian criminal code.

The victim worked for two independent news organizations in the region – Dagestan-based Novoe Delo and the Moscow-based website Kavkaz-uzel (Caucasian Knot).

“All the staff and contributors at Novoe Delo are deeply shocked,” the deputy editor, Ragimat Adamova, told Reporters Without Borders.

“We have no doubt that Akmednabi’s murder was linked to his work. He was the paper’s political editor and wrote widely about the rights of Muslims and extra-judicial shootings. His latest story, published on 5 July, was critical of the region’s governor. He said the governor might lead them to those behind an assassination attempt against him on 11 January this year.”

The journalist said he had received threats in May last year. This January he was the target of an attack from which he escaped unhurt. At the time, there was no inquiry into the attempted murder. The investigation focused only on damage and destruction of property and arms trafficking.

The prosecutor’s decision not to investigate the attempted murder was subsequently ruled illegal, but the charges were never revised.

Akhmednabiev’s lawyer Abdurashid Sheikhov said this serious failing explains the lack of priority given to the case. A month ago the lawyer lodged a formal complaint with the Dagestan prosecutor’s office about the matter. The prosecutor’s response is expected tomorrow, 10 July.

“I am convinced that Akhmednabiev’s murder is the result of negligence on the part of our security forces,” Sheikhov said in an interview with Kavkaz-uzel.

The website’s editor, Gregory Shvedov, said: “We have paid the price of an incompetent justice system.”

Akhmednabiev was on a hit list of people to be killed that circulated in Makhachkala in 2009. Several journalists and human rights campaigners were described on the list as “rebel accomplices”. The noted independent journalist Khadzhimurad Kamalov was murdered in December 2011. His name was also on the hit list. An investigation into his death never reached a conclusion.