Rights activists sound alarm as Muslim men vanish in Moscow
Seven Muslim men originating from the Russian Caucasus have disappeared without trace after leaving a mosque in Moscow more than a month ago, relatives told AFP Monday, hinting at a police cover-up.
On September 24, Zelimkhan Chibiyev was due to drive home from Friday prayers at a mosque in central Moscow with two friends, his wife Aneta Suncheva said.
"Zelimkhan called me about 10 saying they would be home in half an hour," she recalled.
"I called him on his mobile phone and sent text messages, but every time a message said the phone was switched off."
A police officer in Dolgoprudny, the Moscow suburb where the Chibiyev family lives, initially told Suncheva that her husband and his friends had been questioned over a bank robbery.
A few days later, the police officer denied this statement, she said.
"It's astonishing because the relatives of the missing men say that they showed their photographs to the police and were told at the time that they had been questioned," the relatives' lawyer, Nodar Duishvili, told AFP.
Police refused to open an investigation until the lawyer intervened, he said.
Chibiyev and his friends, who originate from the volatile North Caucasus regions of Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, had travelled to Moscow to work and had all the necessary papers, the lawyer said.
Russian police have gained a reputation for targeting men from the Caucasus with frequent document checks and detentions and for using violent methods during questioning.
Russian rights organisation Memorial on Monday expressed concern at the disappearances after being contacted by relatives.
"Lawlessness, abuse of human rights, cruel and cynical murders, explosions and kidnappings have begun to appear more and more widely on the streets of Russian cities," it wrote
Memorial said it has contacted prosecutors and investigators and appealed to the human rights ombudsmen for Russia and Moscow over the case.
© 2010 AFP