More information about the events surrounding the orphanage of Khadizhat Gataeva and Malik Gataev in Lithuania has emerged. The couple was arrested on 16 October 2008 by Lithuania’s State Security Department (VSD) in Kaunas. The couple runs an orphanage for Chechen refugee children in Kaunas and another orphanage in the Chechen capital, Grozny.
Khadizhat Gataeva’s health has deteriorated since her arrest. Mrs Gataeva suffers from heart disease and is in need of immediate treatment. She was about to have an operation, with financial support from a couple of friends, shortly before her detention. She has been refused transfer to a prison medical facility.
The private lawyer who started working on the case last week begun to collect relevant documents about Mrs Gataeva’s health condition and apply for her transfer to a medical facility. These efforts came to a halt when the lawyer abandoned the case after his wife, herself employed at the Prosecutor’s Office, received a warning that she would lose her job if her husband continued working on the case.
Malik Gataev’s friends and relatives have been unable to meet with him, nor have they received any news from him since his arrest. They do not even know in which detention facility he is currently being held. As reported earlier, the private lawyer had arranged a meeting with Mr Gataev, but after the lawyer dropped the case, the meeting never took place.
The Gataevs have been unable to hire a new private lawyer. Instead, a state attorney has been appointed to them, but the couple seem to have little confidence in the state attorney’s ability or willingness to defend them.
It has emerged that Malik Gataev’s brother was also detained on the day of Malik’s and Khadizhat’s arrest. The brother was detained when he approached a car that had been parked near the orphanage in Kaunas for several hours to ask the people inside the car about their intentions.
The brother was kept in a temporary detention facility for 48 hours and then brought to the office of Lithuania’s State Security Department (VSD). There he was met by VSD investigators and the prosecutor assigned to the case, who forced him to sign a document stating that he had been interfering in the investigation.
However, he had received no prior notification of the investigation and no request for non-interference. Malik Gataev’s brother had no choice but to sign the document as he was threatened with prolonged detention. He was also warned not to come close to the orphanage or face arrest.
The orphanage remains under tight surveillance by agents of the State Security Department, who continue to exert psychological pressure on the children and other residents of the orphanage, trying to force them to cooperate. Friends of the family have not been allowed to enter the orphanage.
The children have to report to all their comings and goings as well as all phone calls they receive and make to the VSD. All phone calls to or from the orphanage, friends, and acquaintances of the Gataev family are being tapped. It appears that letters from the children to their parents are not delivered.
Most of the inhabitants of the orphanage are kept in the dark about the reasons of their parents’ detention and their whereabouts. The children at the orphanage keep asking about Malik and Khadizhat.
One of Malik Gataev’s friends phoned the orphanage to inquire about the children. Immediately after he hang up, police officers arrived to his place and advised him not to call the orphanage again. Another two friends of the Gataevs were stopped by police on their way to the orphanage, and were told to stay away from the case.
Even though both foster parents are currently detained, and no supporters are allowed access to the children, state authorities have provided no financial or material support to the orphanage so far.
The children are now surviving on the money provided by one of the friends of the family who managed to visit them the day after the detention of the Gataevs. The children are in need of winter footwear and school supplies. Also, utility payments are soon due.
Family friends say that Ms Aminat Saieva, residing in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, has agreed to foster the children temporarily. However, she cannot travel from Vilnius to Kaunas on a daily basis.
Ms Saieva has been in touch with Malik Gataev’s sister-in-law in Kaunas, who has agreed to help Ms Saieva to look after the children for the time being. She has applied for guardianship of the children.
In another development, a long-time family friend and supporter of the orphanage, Bekkhan Gariev, a lawyer educated in Lithuania currently residing in Britan, was planning to visit the orphans in Kaunas right after the Gataevs’ detention. However, he received an indirect warning through family sources that he would be arrested on his arrival at Vilnius Airport. Under Lithuanian law, a person can be detained for 48 hours without charges.
Mr Gariev had intended to visit the orphanage and stay there, as he had often done previously, in order to take care of the children for a while in their parents’ absence. He called the orphanage to inform the inhabitants about his plans and inquire about this possibility to stay there. However, having received the warning about his potential arrest, Mr Gariev cancelled his visit.