Today the trial of Akhmed Chatayev - only detained following a controversial operation in the Lopota gorge in Kakheti in late August begins in Tbilisi. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia is preparing documents to answer the request of the Russian authorities, who demand his extradition. It is already known that Chatayev who lived in Tbilisi is a Russian citizen and has a refugee status in Austria. He is an associate of the head of the North Caucasus underground Doku Umarov and, according to some, a representative of the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate in Europe. the Georgian side does not intend to extradite him. On November 12th, First Deputy Justice Minister David Jandieri made a special statement about his fate. He stressed that "the Georgian side will not extradite Chatayev."
The announcement came in response to rumours of a possible transfer of the Chechen to the Russian side. On November 12th representatives of the Chechen diaspora said that the Georgian government should not allow this to happen. While Kist activists Meka Khangoshvili and Ayuf Khodzhashvili called on the Georgian authorities to free Akhmed Chatayev, who to this day remains in a prison hospital. They referred to the dire state of health of the detainee, and said that he needs amputation of his right leg, but he does not trust prison doctors. It should be noted that in early September Chatayev lost his left foot - amputation was done in a military hospital in Gori immediately after law enforcers detained seriously injured underground member a few days after the operation in Lopota. He also does not have his right hand that he lost during the war in Chechnya and that is why Chatayev is known by the nickname "one-armed Akhmed."
When he was detained in Ukraine in January 2010, Kiev also received a request of Moscow saying that the Chechen emissary was on their wanted list since 2003 on suspicion of recruiting fighters and raising funds for militants in the North Caucasus. Against the background of the intervention of human rights defenders this requirement, according to foreign media reports, was rejected because the European Court of Human Rights advised Ukraine not to extradite Akhmed Chatayev. Since, as noted in the statement by Jandieri, "this information has not been confirmed at the official level," the Ministry of Justice of Georgia sent a request to Strasbourg to make sure that the European Court did recommend the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from extradition of the "one-armed" to the Russian side.
Meanwhile, with regard to Akhmed Chatayev the case on charges of illegal acquisition, storage and transport of explosives is still there. According to the Interior Ministry, during the arrest, he had two grenades F-1 in possession. The investigation is conducted by the 1st and 2nd parts of Article 236 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which threatens with imprisonment for a term of 3 to 5 years. The first consideration of the case was scheduled by the Tbilisi City Court on November 15th after the preliminary hearing. On November 1, the court did not grant the request of an attorney to change the measure of restraint with a 2-month detention on bail of 10 thousand GEL, having argued that the defence did not provide sufficient grounds for this.
In particular, the lawyer presented the court a health certificate of Akhmed Chatayev, which mentioned the need of another operation. But, as the press service of the Tbilisi City Court stated, "according to this certificate, the general condition of the patient is stably satisfactory, he is undergoing appropriate treatment and is in hospital under constant supervision of medical staff." And change in the preventive measure may lead to escape of the accused. It was noted that the "one-armed man" has numerous contacts abroad, "often travels to and from the territory of Georgia, and does not have permanent residence in the country." It was also noted that the Chatayev did not consider himself guilty, and "evidence of the prosecution against him - in particular, the arrest and search protocol, conclusion of a pyrotechnic expert and witness testimonies - were approved for consideration at the main hearing of the case."
Meanwhile, two of the three Georgian border guards involved in the arrest of Chatayev, told reporters that he did not have grenades - and it was security service workers that forced them to slander Chatayev. The prosecutor's office has already started investigating the alleged pressure on the staff of the Border Police of the Interior Ministry. "If it is confirmed that the witnesses gave false testimonies and the defendant really did not have the explosive, it will be the basis not only for consequent release on bail, but complete removal of all the charges against him," - said during the hearing prosecutor Elizbar Gozalishvili.
Akhmed Chatayev is the only living eyewitness to the events that took place in the Lopota gorge. His testimony could put an end to speculations of what happened in woods surrounding the village of Lapankuri in Kakheti. A the time, as we know, 11 militants were killed - nine citizens of Russia and two Georgian citizens, among whom was Dukvakha Dushuyev - a former bodyguard of Prime Minister of Ichkeria Akhmed Zakayev, who had a refugee status in the UK. Two Interior Ministry special force officers and military doctor of the Georgian Defence Ministry were also killed.
The "one-armed" himself states that he had no relation to an armed group - which, according to him, were heading to Chechnya via Dagestan. Chatayev told human rights activist Gela Mtivlishvili that he had received a call from the Anti-Terrorism Centre of the Interior Ministry of Georgia and had been asked to help establish a dialogue with the detected militants. During the negotiations shooting started and at that moment he was injured. Afterwards he was hiding in the forest without food and water doe a few days before coming to the highway and stopping the car that appeared to belong to border guards service.
On November 9th a story of one of the five young villagers of Lapankuri that were taken hostage by the armed group later neutralized in Lopota also became known. Tato Gaguashvili told TV channel Maestro that he was on a picnic with friends, when they were abducted by 17 armed men, only one of whom spoke Georgian. The militants demanded to escort them to the border with Russia - promising to release after reaching Dagestan. "They said they wanted to just quietly cross the border", - said the former hostage. According to Gaguashvili the captured lapankuri residents were seeing and hearing how their villagers were looking for them but they could not answer or give any signal. The hostages were not treated badly and were released on August 28th, after border guard officers that entered into negotiations with the militants agreed to take place of the young people.
It should be noted that the refugee status obtained in Austria plays an important role in the current case of the "one-armed man" and it’s not the first time it saves him. Austrian defence helped Akhmed Chatayev to get released after detention in Ukraine, where the local interior ministry said that his mobile phone held explosion instructions. For the same reason Chatayev avoided extradition to Russia, when again was arrested in May 2011 when passing the border control at the border of Bulgaria and Turkey. First district court of Haskovo decided to extradite him to Moscow. But, the defence appealed the decision, stressing his refugee status and claiming that violence awaited the detained in Russia. As a result, the Plovdiv Court of Appeal cancelled the verdict of the lower court, since Chatayev has the refugee status in Austria and is protected under the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951.
It should also be noted that Akhmed Chatayev moved to Georgia from Ukraine, where, too, appeared after a much-talked-about criminal story. In March 2008, along with other natives of Chechnya, he was detained on a ferry that arrived to the Swedish town of Trelleborg. Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition and explosives were found in a car registered in the name of Chatayev. The "one-armed" himself claimed that the arsenal had been planted, but he had to spend a year in a Swedish prison.