September 11, 2008

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Moscow, Russia
Fax: + 7 095 206 5173/ 230 2408

Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka, 15a GSP 3
Moscow 125993
Fax: + 7 095 292 88 48

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the death of web site owner Magomed Yevloyev.

According to our information, Yevloyev was arrested on August 31, 2008 as he disembarked from an airplane at Manas Airport in Ingushetia’s capital, Nazran. He died from a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted as he was being driven in a police van from the airport. Police claim the death was accidental and that a policeman’s firearm had accidentally fired as Yevloyev lunged at the officer in an attempt to resist arrest. The Russian prosecutor general’s office has stated that an investigation has been launched.

Yevloyev was the owner of the opposition web site, said to be the only media critical of the regional president Murat Zyazikov. The web site frequently reports on the growing tensions in the region. It is also known as a reliable source of information on issues such as corruption, human rights abuses, poverty and unemployment, as well as anti-government protests, and thus has suffered several attempts to close it down. Most recently, a June 2008 banning order issued for “inciting ethnic hatred” and distributing “extremist” materials was upheld by a district court in Moscow. Yevloyev’s friends and family, who had been waiting at the airport to greet him and had witnessed the arrest, report that he had sent a mobile message to say that President Ziyazikov was also on the same flight shortly before the plane had disembarked. A few days earlier, on August 22, Yevloyev had posted a statement on his web site accusing Zyazikov and the Ingushetian Interior Minister Musa Medov of unleashing “a civil war against the Ingushetian people,” adding that “all attempts undertaken by Zyazkivov and Medov are futile.”

PEN American Center is shocked by the murder of Magomed Yevloyev, and is deeply concerned that he may have been killed for his reporting on tensions in the country and for criticism of Ingushetian leadership. We understand that other independent journalists in Ingushetia have recently reported threats and harassment as well. PEN welcomes the fact that an investigation is being carried out into Yevloyev’s death, and urges that authorities take into consideration fears that he may have been the victim of an assassination and ensure that measures are taken to safeguard all other journalists who speak out in Ingueshetia.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Yuriy V. Ushakov,
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.
2650 Wisconsin Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735

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