The Russian sat in Guantanamo and the UAE: why he does not want to return to his homeland
Russian Ravil Mingazov spent 15 years in Guantanamo prison and four more years in the UAE. And although they planned to return him to his homeland several times, he very much asked not to do this. Now his return to Russia seems inevitable. The edition told in more detail with the BBC.
The UN fears that the Emirates will soon hand over the 54-year-old Mingazov to Russia, and torture may await him at home. Other former Guantanamo inmates reported on the abuse upon their return home.
The name of the Cuban town of Guantanamo means "land between rivers". Just a few kilometers from the beach is the most famous prison in the world.
The Americans have been renting a plot of land here for an indefinite period since 1903, and the prison was opened in 2002.
The opening of a military prison in Cuba played into the hands of the American administration: the US Constitution does not work there, the prisoners are deprived of many rights, and the investigators do not even think that the prisoners will ever be brought to justice. Formally, suspects in terrorism, from whom the United States wanted to protect society, fell into Guantanamo. They could stay in Guantanamo all the time while the "war on terrorism" is going on, that is, indefinitely.
The torture of Guantanamo detainees has been reported for many years by human rights activists. The prisoners were tortured with water, cold, forcibly undressed, forced to listen to loud music, deprived of sleep, and beaten. A Russian citizen Airat Vakhitov, who served in Guantanamo for a year and a half, also said that he was beaten, the guards did not allow him to sleep for several days, the nurses gave the prisoners incomprehensible pills without testimony.
In 2002, another Russian citizen, Ravil Mingazov, ended up in Guantanamo. In prison, he was assigned the number 720.
“In those days, instead of cameras, there were sea containers. They stood in two rows, between them - a meter and a half aisle, - recalls another inmate of Guantanamo, Mingazov's acquaintance Ravil Gumarov. - One iron container - two meters by two to forty. There is an iron bed. Window - meter by meter under the ceiling, with a grid. We walked twice a week, and then we went straight to the shower. We were fed, thank God, normally. "
Gumarov recalls that there was “not much abuse”: “When I got there, both my legs were shot, and my arm was shot too. Maybe because of this ... There were interrogations. They have analysts working there, every month or two they repeat the same questions. You are sitting in the room, the camera is filming you. And the glass is there - it is clear that someone is standing behind it and watching. And they ask: “Do you know Bin Laden? You don't know ... Do you know al-Qaeda? " No, I heard from you for the first time ... "
“It wasn't very good at first,” says 85-year-old Zukhra Valiullina, mother of Ravil Mingazov. “And lately he has lived well at Guantanamo. Human rights activists from the Red Cross came to him, treated him with respect and talked. And a woman from the Red Cross came to me, turned on the computer, and we talked with him. They were fed well lately, they were all seafood. Even in the heat, ice cream was given. "
At the same time, Mingazov did not complain in letters to his mother. Nor did he write about torture. He says that he will be released soon.
“I am doing well, which is what I wish for you. The brothers are sent home little by little. My turn will come imperceptibly. Every beginning has its end. The main thing is for Allah to be pleased with us. I love you all. I pray for each of you, ”wrote Mingazov in the summer of 2007.
From ballet to Afghanistan
Zukhra Valliulina grew up in a Muslim family, prayed five times a day, but, according to her, she did not bring up her children in Islamic traditions.
Ros Mingazov without a father, he left the family when Ravil was very young. Ravil graduated from school in Naberezhnye Chelny, and then went to study dancing at an art school. At the age of 20, Ravil was drafted into the army. There he continued to dance in the troupe of a military ensemble, and a few years later returned to Chelny to his mother.
Zuhra says that Ravil became interested in Islam when he once saw his mother performing namaz.
He began to visit the mosque. And after the explosions of residential buildings in Moscow in 1999, Russian special services became interested in the parishioners of this mosque. The two organizers of the terrorist attack, according to the FSB, met in Naberezhnye Chelny, and their acquaintances attended the same mosque. In addition, the imam in the mosque was Ayrat Vakhitov, who later, together with Ravil Mingazov, would end up in Guantanamo and will be included in the Russian terrorist list.
Mingazov's acquaintances complained that he not only reads "Wahhabist books", but also advised them to friends.
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In the winter of 2000, Mingazov took a vacation and decided to leave the country. He told his mother that he was going to “build an Islamic jamaat” (a community of Muslims who together follow rituals, study religion and help each other). Mingazov's goal was Afghanistan, which among the Muslims who went to the Chelny mosque was considered a "real Islamic state."
If in the 2010s radical Muslims went to ISIS (Islamic State), then in those years they tried to build a caliphate under the leadership of the Taliban working in Afghanistan.
Ravil Mingazov spent two years first in Tajikistan, then in Afghanistan and, finally, in Pakistan. At the same time, it is impossible to establish exactly what he was doing.
According to the US, Mingazov was a member of extremist groups associated with al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, he passed several training camps, where he learned to make explosives and worked with poisons. During interrogations at Guantanamo, Mingazov claimed to have fought on the side of the Taliban.
Also, according to the US version, Mingazov did not hold any leadership positions, because he could only speak Russian.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda members hijacked four passenger planes. Two of them crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the third was sent by the terrorists to the Pentagon building, and the fourth - thanks to passengers - fell into a field.
Mingazov was then in the al-Qaeda camp, where the radicals who staged the September 11 attacks also trained. But according to the United States, he knew nothing about the planned attacks.
In response to the September 11 attacks, then US President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over to the Americans "terrorist number one" Osama bin Laden, who had taken refuge in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused.
In October 2001, the United States launched the longest-running war in its history, calling it Operation Enduring Freedom.
US aviation struck at military facilities of the Taliban, disabled their aircraft, and covered supply lines. In mid-November, the Taliban surrendered Kabul without a fight, and by the end of the month only one large city remained under their control - Kandahar. When the Americans took him in early December, some of the militants fled to neighboring Pakistan. Among them was Ravil Mingazov. But they failed to hide there, and in the winter of 2002 the United States captured him in the northeast of the country.
He spent the next 15 years at Guantanamo.
Barack Obama, who during the presidential race advocated the closure of the prison in Cuba, did make several attempts to resolve this issue once and for all, but to no avail. But he managed to organize several working groups, one of which began to review the status of prisoners and had to ultimately determine whether someone could be released or transferred to other institutions in third countries.
In the summer of 2016, the United States decided that Mingazov no longer posed a serious threat, and was recommended for transfer. Most of all, he himself feared that he would be returned to Russia.
Several years ago, journalists wrote that a Russian delegation came to look at the conditions of Mingazov's detention, and, possibly, he was threatened with torture when he returned to Russia.
The United States did not send Ravil Mingazov to Russia. Instead, a cell was found for him in the United Arab Emirates, where he is still being held.
In 2019, the family was allowed to visit Mingazov in prison.
“I don't know the name of the prison. We arrived in the city of Al-Ain, and from there we took a taxi to the prison for 250 kilometers. There are white sands, palm trees, and the roads are very good. We lived there for a month, and during this month we were allowed to meet with Ravil four times, - says mother Zukhra Valiullina. - When we met, he rushed to me: he kisses, hugs, kisses my feet. I look: he is in a white shirt, his teeth are normal. And he replies: “In Guantanamo, the doctor was good, but here I can't even order glasses. Eyesight shrinks. "
The conditions in which the meeting took place surprised Zukhra: a spacious room, everywhere carpets on the floor, a sofa for guests, they were fed "well".
“There were two guards watching us. We put food on ourselves, and gave the rest to them, they are also hired people, ”Zukhra explains.
A few months later, Ravil's older brother went to the meeting. He suspected that the conditions of Mingazov's detention did not resemble the picture described by his mother. The brother noticed that Ravil was being led down the corridor in shackles, his eyes were blindfolded. After that, in a separate room, Ravil was dressed in a long white shirt and taken to his relatives.
Ravil managed to complain that several times he was sent to a solitary cell, the last time he spent six months there.
The mother believes that the visit was theatrical, the son could not complain about the conditions in front of the guard. Later, during short calls, authorized by the prison administration, he complained of being "alone", lack of adequate medical care and very poor food - especially during fasting.
“In Guantanamo, conditions were a thousand times better,” complains Zuhra.
"Experience" at home is not needed
Rumors that they want to send Mingazov to Russia appeared in 2020, but recently there is reason to believe that the prisoner can be repatriated at any time, says Yasmin Ashraf of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is unclear whether Mingazov himself knows about these plans of the Russian authorities.
“About six months ago two guys came to me and asked: where is your son? I said. And a month ago a man from the FSB came in, brought three forms and said: “It turns out that your son does not have a passport. We are busy, we will restore his passport ”. And left. So far nothing has happened, ”says Ravil's mother Zukhra.
Officially, the plans of the Russian authorities to achieve the return of Mingazov to his homeland is unknown. While Mingazov was in Guantanamo, Russian officials said in their interviews that they were seeking his return to his homeland.
At the UN, the possible return of Mingazov to Russia raises concerns: they believe that such a repatriation would be a violation of international rights, which prohibit the extradition of a person if he may face ill-treatment or go to prison "because of his religious views." In addition, now Mingazov does not have any legal assistance.
During the time that Mingazov was in the UAE, Russia developed a tough policy towards citizens who fought abroad on the side of extremist groups. This was facilitated by the ongoing war in Syria, in which thousands of immigrants from the CIS countries took the side of the Islamic State.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said several years ago that the country cannot allow "the experience they have gained to be used at home later."
In 2015, the human rights organization "Memorial" noted in its report that the investigating authorities abandoned the "soft power" policy that had been in effect since 2009 with regard to members of gangs wishing to surrender their weapons and return to peaceful life.
“For their part, human rights activists are trying to help people who turn to us, who want to surrender their weapons and have no blood on their hands. But we cannot guarantee that after being handed over to the prosecutor's office or the “E” center, a person will not be tortured, ”said human rights activist Oleg Orlov.
"Elephant" and a bottle of vodka
In addition to Ravil Mingazov, seven Russians passed through Guantanamo, who, after two years behind bars in Cuba, returned to Russia. At home, they were brought to trial - they were accused of violating the border and participating in an illegal criminal community, but no evidence of guilt was found, and all seven were released.
In Russia, former Guantanamo inmates remained on the radar for the authorities, with constant interrogation calls, surveillance and threats. In 2005, two - Timur Ishmuratov and Ravil Gumarov - were accused of blowing up the municipal gas pipeline in Bugulma. Both confessed to committing the terrorist attack, but later said in court that they had testified under torture.
Gusarov said that the "elephant" torture was applied to him. The arrested person was put on a gas mask over his head, and his hose was periodically blocked. Gumarov said that the investigators tore the hair out of his beard, beat him on the back, and once poured a whole bottle of vodka down the throat of a non-drinking Muslim.
The jury unanimously found Gumarov and Ishmuratov not guilty, but the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and sent the case for a new trial, after which the ex-prisoners of Guantanamo were sentenced to 13 and 15 years in prison, later the terms were reduced. Ishmuratov was released in 2013, Gumarov a year later.
“Yes,” - calmly and succinctly answers now Gumarov when asked whether he confirms his words about torture.
“My article is heavy - terrorism, so I am still under supervision. Three times a month I go to check in, and at any time they can come to check me from 9 pm to 6 am, ”Gumarov tells about his life.
Another former Guantanamo prisoner, Rasul Kudaev, was accused in 2005 of an armed attack on administrative facilities in Nalchik. The lawyer was able to get to Kudaev only two days after the arrest.
“When I came to the pre-trial detention center to talk to Rasul, two employees of the pre-trial detention center brought him to me, as he could not move independently. Rasul could not raise his head, there was a large hematoma on the right side of his face, the eye was covered with blood, the head was abnormal in shape and size, the right leg was broken, and there were open wounds on the hands, ”lawyer Irina Komissarova said at the time. After her public statement, Komissarova was interrogated by the prosecutor's office and removed from Kudaev's defense.
The accused in the case of the attack on Nalchik appealed to the prosecutor's office, complaining of torture. The prosecutor's office conducted an investigation and concluded that the law enforcement officers acted within the law. The request to open a criminal case on the fact of coercion to confess guilt by the accused was refused.
Rasul Kudaev was sentenced to life imprisonment. His mother would like to meet with her son, but she is not given permission to visit.
Ruslan Odizhev was also involved in the Kudaev case. He was killed while trying to detain him in the center of Nalchik in the summer of 2007.
The three remaining prisoners of Guantanamo Bay eventually left Russia. Shamil Khaziev left for the Netherlands. Where Rustam Akhmyarov is now is unknown.
Ayrat Vakhitov settled in Turkey, from where he traveled to Syria several times, as the United States claimed, "to fight in Syria on the side of terrorists." In 2013, Vakhitov described it this way: “About several thousand citizens of Russia, citizens of other countries came to help the Syrian people to overthrow the dictator and murderer. Someone is engaged in humanitarian aid, someone offers their own medical practice, someone - feasible military assistance. "
Russian security officials suspected him of recruiting Russians to fight on the side of the Syrian opposition, as well as involvement in the Islamic State. Vakhitov himself publicly criticized IS, for which he was sentenced to death by the Islamists in absentia.
In the summer of 2016, Vakhitov was detained in Istanbul on suspicion of involvement in the explosion at the Ataturk airport. In the same year, the United States included Vakhitov on the list of persons accused of having connections with terrorists. Vakhitov should be released in a year. His acquaintances say that "Turkish imprisonment, maybe for his good."
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