The wife of a Chechen man on trial for planning Vladimir Putin’s assassination has called on the international community to put pressure on Ukraine to ensure he is given a fair trial.
Adam Osmayev, who spent his teenage years living in the UK, will begin his testimony today to a court in Odessa on charges of terrorist conspiracy that could see him jailed for up to 15 years.
“I have no faith in the independence of this court,” Amina Okuyeva told The Independent from Odessa. “The only way there could be a fair outcome is if international human rights activists and politicians take an interest. It’s clear this court is under pressure from the secret services.”
Mr Osmayev was arrested in Odessa last year after an apparent bomb blast in a rented flat alerted authorities to the use of explosives. He is accused of being under the command of Doku Umarov, an Islamic terrorist leader and Russia’s most wanted man.
According to the prosecution, Mr Osmayev was tasked by Umarov to prepare a terrorist cell in Odessa for onward travel to Moscow, where the men would blow up three cars filled with explosives in the path of Mr Putin’s motorcade some time in spring last year.
Analysts have called the plans fanciful and suggested that the charges were probably fabricated as a pre-election stunt. News of the apparent assassination plan was aired for the first time on Russian state-controlled television last February, just a few days before the presidential election that returned Mr Putin to the Kremlin.
Ms Okuyeva, 29, denies that her husband could have been involved in Islamic extremism, citing his time in the UK as a defining influence on the way he views the world. “He doesn’t like what’s happening in Chechnya and he never hid that, but he has very progressive views,” she said. “We go to the mosque sometimes and I’ve never heard him say anything extremist.”
Ms Okuyeva is a trainee surgeon at a hospital in Odessa. Like Mr Osmayev, she also has Chechen roots. The pair met on a social network for Chechens abroad in 2008, and chatted online before realising they both lived in Odes-sa. A year later, they were married by a local imam in a religious ceremony, though their wedding was never formalised by civil authorities.
The Independent revealed last week that Mr Osmayev spent seven years in the UK, where he took A-levels at an elite boarding school in Gloucestershire before studying economics at the University of Buckingham.
Mr Osmayev linked the charges to his father’s past as an influential businessman, and suggested vendettas within the Russian security services and pro-Kremlin leadership of Chechnya may be behind the case. He refused to talk about the case, but said he would provide evidence to the court tomorrow that would exonerate him. Ms Okuyeva has been combining 24-hour hospital shifts with attendance at the pre-trial hearings, and has set up an online campaign with the goal of drawing more attention to the case.
At a hearing last week, she sat in the front row of the small courtroom, waving and smiling at Mr Osmayev, who was locked up behind black metal bars in the defendant’s cage and surrounded by armed police.
Mr Osmayev initially confessed to the plot, but later rescinded his testimony. He told The Independent that he had only admitted his involvement after threats and torture at the hands of police and special forces.