Jailed Daghestani Doctor's Wife Appeals To Putin, Denounces 'Meat Grinder'
by Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva, Claire Bigg, January 17, 2013, RFE/RL
Amina Gunasheva says she wrote to the Russian president out of desperation.
The young woman has not seen her husband, a well-respected anesthesiologist from Daghestan, since law-enforcement officers burst into his hospital in the regional capital, Makhachkala, last November.
Interrupting surgery on a patient, the masked officers dragged Marat Gunashev out of the operation room and bundled him into a vehicle in his medical scrubs and slippers.
He is now jailed without trial in another North Caucasus republic, accused of colluding with Islamic militants in the 2010 assassination of Makhachkala's police chief.
Gunasheva, who dismisses the accusations as absurd, has been unable to obtain any more information about her husband after being cold-shouldered by police, prosecutors and the FSB.
Vladimir Putin, she says, is her last hope.
"Of course, I hope that his letter will have some effect," Gunasheva says. "What else can I do in my situation?"
The family's ordeal does not end here.
Gunashev's brother-in-law, surgeon Shamil Gasanov, was detained on the
same day in the same hospital, also on charges of helping murder the
city's police head.
Gasanov, however, did not survive the arrest. His body was returned to
his relatives decapitated and bearing signs of torture, with multiple
bruises and both his knees shattered by bullets.
Police say the surgeon was killed after attacking law-enforcement
officers with a hidden gun during a search of his apartment — a claim
at odds with witness accounts suggesting he had been blindfolded and
The case has caused dismay in Makhachkala, where the doctors were widely admired.
Relatives, friends, and colleagues insist on their innocence, saying
both come from secular middle-class families with no know ties to the
"He is a respected person, he holds three different jobs," Gunasheva
says of her husband. "He not only heads intensive-care units, he is also
frequently flown out to treat patients. He often treats law-enforcement
officers wounded in counterterrorism operations. He brings them to his
unit and puts them back on their feet. So for us, this is all completely
Gunasheva also accuses police of planting drugs in her 8-year-old
daughter's bedroom, next to her schoolbooks, during a search of her
An attempt by Gunashev's colleagues to hold a protest rally was quashed
after the local health minister reportedly threatened to fire any
hospital staff who spoke out in support of either Gunashev or Gasanov.
'In Detention, And That's All'
The family's plight reflects the mounting violence and lawlessness in
Daghestan since the Islamic insurgency spilled out of Chechnya following
two separatist wars with Moscow.
Human rights groups say civilians continue to suffer severe abuse at the
hands of both separatist rebels and security agencies, which have a
track record of extrajudicial killings and abductions.
In a report published last year, Amnesty International warned that the
complex and "opaque" structure of law-enforcement agencies in the North
Caucasus allowed authorities to victimize the population with almost
Like the men who seized Gunashev and Gasanov, law-enforcement officials
are often masked and devoid of any insignia identifying their agency,
making it impossible for victims to seek redress.
Even when the perpetrators are identified and evidence of torture is available, the crimes are rarely investigated.
In Gunashev's case, it remains unclear whether he will face trial.
Unclear, too, is whether a proper investigation is even under way.
"They detained him over fabricated accusations," Magomed Zaur, a lawyer
representing Gunashev, says. "Not only was he immediately arrested and
falsely accused, he was also taken to another republic, where he is
being detained far away from his home. There are no attempts to
determine whether Gunashev is guilty or not. He is in detention, that's
'No One Is Safe'
For Gunasheva and her relatives, the real motive for the doctors' singling-out also remains a mystery.
For now, their suspicions fall on a former girlfriend of Gasanov who they say never forgave him for marrying Gunashev's sister.
They say the woman had harassed the newlyweds and threatened to use her contacts in law-enforcement agencies to exact revenge.
Gunasheva is convinced this woman is the single, anonymous witness whose
testimony appears to be at the heart of the case against the two
She says her husband's jailing and Gasanov's horrific death are a
painful reminder of how vulnerable civilians remain to abuse perpetrated
in the name of the war against Islamic insurgents in the North
"If they took him away and tainted his name, then no one is safe in this
republic," Gunasheva says. "People who know me, relatives and friends,
actually cry when they come to visit me. I no longer have the strength
to cry over the injustice, the helplessness, the fact that anyone can
end up in this meat grinder."