Lawyer pressured to quit Gataev case

Events in Lithuania with regard to the orphanage of Khadizhat Gataeva and Malik Gataev have taken a nasty turn. The couple was arrested on 16 October 2008 by Lithuanian 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.

On 23 October 2008, the lawyer who had taken up the Gataev case and started working on it abandoned the case, after his wife received a warning that she would lose her job if her husband continued working on the case.

The lawyer had arranged a meeting with Malik Gataev. No one had met Malik since his arrest, and the lawyer had only talked to Khadizhat who is being kept in a different detention facility. Having dropped the case, however, the meeting with Malik never took place.

Khadzihat Gataeva was interrogated until 2 am on the night of her detention. She was not allowed to hire a private lawyer; instead, a state lawyer was appointed to her, and the lawyer just sat silently by her side throughout the interrogation.

The VSD has been exerting pressure on friends and acquaintances of the Gataevs in Lithuania. Some have been detained for prolonged conversations. No friends or acquaintances have been allowed into the orphanage.

The VSD is keeping the orphanage under surveillance, exerting psychological pressure on the orphans, and pressuring them into cooperating with the VSD. The girl, who is said to have initially reported abuse in the orphanage (there has only been one such complaint), is now missing from the orphanage, and people involved in the case suspect that she is being held by the VSD.

The official charge against the Gataev couple is that they extorted money from the orphans. It seems strange that the State Security Department is investigating a case that should normally be dealt with by the Criminal Police.

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