On 20 March 2009, the administration of the Russian penal colony LIU-15 in Volgograd lodged a suit against the human rights defender and journalist Yelena Maglevannaya. The administration was apparently unhappy about Maglevannaya’s efforts to draw attention to the desperate situation of one of the colony’s inmates, Zubair Zubairaev, an ethnic Chechen.
The suit was lodged under article 152 of the Russian Civil Code (protection of honour and business reputation). The colony accuses Yelena Maglevannaya of spreading information about Zubairaev to destroy the good name of the colony’s administration. The first court hearing was scheduled for 26 March 2009.
Yelena Maglevannaya told about the torture that Zubairaev was subjected to during his custody, including nailing his feet to the floor and subsequent denial of medical treatment. Maglevannaya also assisted in organising the visit of the Chechen activist, Imran Ejiev, who came to Volgograd on behalf of the Belgian MEP, Bart Staes. Numerous signs of ill-treatment and torture were documented during that visit.
Zubair Zubairaev fled Russia with his family during the open hostilities in Chechnya. They received asylum in Austria, but in 2007, they decided to return to Chechnya. Soon after their return, Zubairaev was detained by local law enforcement officials. For some time after his arrest, his whereabouts were unknown to his relatives.
In August 2007, Zubairaev was sentenced to five years in prison “for assaulting a law enforcement official and illegal possession of firearms.” He was transferred to serve his sentence in the penal colony in Volgograd. When he managed to contact his sisters, he told her that he was being beaten up continuously.