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OWNER OF INGUSHETIA WEBSITE SHOT DEAD IN POLICE CUSTODY; MORE JOURNALISTS ATTACKED IN CAUCASUS

An opposition news website owner in Russia's conflict-ridden Ingushetia region was fatally shot on 31 August soon after being detained by police, report Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), ARTICLE 19 and other IFEX members.

Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the news website http://www.Ingushetiya.ru , was a vocal critic of the region's Kremlin-backed administration, accusing them of crushing dissent and free speech. His website is one of the main non-governmental sources of information in the autonomous republic of Ingushetia, and is strongly critical of local authorities.

IFEX members report that police were waiting for Yevloyev as he arrived in Ingushetia on a flight from Moscow. The President of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov, was reported to have been on the same airplane as Yevloyev. Shortly after Yevloyev was driven off in a police vehicle, he was admitted to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head and died on the operating table.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), police said Yevloyev was shot "accidentally" when he lunged for a gun of one of the arresting officers. But government opponent Magomed Hazbiyev, who had gone to the airport to meet him, insisted that government agents deliberately shot him while he was in their car, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Human Rights Watch in Moscow called the death "suspicious."

The Interior Ministry said Yevloyev was detained as a witness in a criminal investigation into an August explosion at the home of a regional administration official, says GDF.

The day after Yevloyev's death, a thousand people demonstrated against the killing in Nazran, Ingushetia's biggest town, and demanded Zyazikov's resignation, say local news reports. Protesters also gathered on 2 September near Nazran's bus station where Yevloyev's body was laid out. Police and special forces arrived in two trucks, firing warning shots and hitting the demonstrators with batons to disperse them. No injuries were immediately reported.

Ingushetia is a poor, mainly Muslim, region in Russia's North Caucasus region that borders Chechnya. The President faces a low-level insurgency by Islamist militants.

In June, a Moscow court ordered the closure of Ingushetiya.ru for alleged distribution of extremist materials. Last month, the chief editor of Ingushetiya.ru, Roza Malsagova, left Russia seeking political asylum, saying she feared for her life, says RSF.

Yevloyev had been the target of serious threats. He is one of the most high-profile journalists to be killed in Russia since investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead near her Moscow apartment in 2006. IFEX members are demanding a full and independent murder inquiry.

Two other attacks in the Russian Caucasus region have left one journalist dead and another seriously injured, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Abdullah Alishaev, a reporter dealing with religious affairs at local television station TV-Chirkei, died on 3 September from wounds sustained after he was shot in Dagestan's provincial capital, Makhachkala.

"Gazeta Yuga" newspaper editor Miloslav Bitokov was attacked by three people outside his home in the city of Nalchik in North Caucasus on 26 August and was in hospital with skull injuries. Colleagues said Bitokov had received threats for publishing articles critical of local authorities.

Visit these links:
- GDF: http://www.gdf.ru/digest/digest/digest396e.shtml
- Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations: http://www.cjes.ru/lenta/?lang=eng
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/6rdxrl
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/689yzk
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/6axmbd
- International Press Institute: http://tinyurl.com/58wx4d
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28358
- OSCE: http://www.osce.org/item/32782.html
- AFP on protests: http://tinyurl.com/6nyc8c
(3 September 2008)

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