Khadizhat and Malik Gataevs: “Lithuanian Secret Services are Kept on a String by Someone”
We publish an exclusive interview by Khadizhat and Malik Gataevs for Lithuanian internet portal Slaptai and XXI Century newspaper. The interview had been recorded when Gataevs were still imprisoned at one of confinement places in Kaunas on July 30, 2009. Lithuanian journalist Gintaras Visockas talked to Khadizhat and Malik Gataevs in a meeting room for almost four hours.
Chechens Khadizhat and Malik Gataevs were released from their confinement place in Kaunas on September 9, 2009. But after their release a new trial was started against them immediately. On September 25, Lithuanian court sentenced to couple for 7 months more prison. The real reasons of their detention and imprisonment still remain under veil of mystery. The Lithuanian public still does not know why the most important Lithuanian secret service, the Lithuanian State Security Department, headed by Povilas Malakauskas, interfered into family conflict. The Lithuanian public got no explanation yet why SSD officials demanded of Denis Volovsky, Gataevs adopted child, to testify in court against his parents and why Lithuanian security officials threatened to deport D. Volovsky and apply all legal sanctions if he refuses to witness against Gataevs. Therefore there is a suspicion that successful Gataevs enterprise caused Russia’s discontent. Current Kremlin authorities were irritated by the message that behind Russia’s borders dozens of Chechen children are being raised as free, independent people respecting their traditions and faith. Also one should not discard a version that because of very solid financial income received from the West by the Lithuanian secret services for the purpose to fight terrorism those secret services tumble head ower heels looking for terrorists in places there never ever been any one of them. There also may be Malik had been under pressure to cooperate with some secret service but he refused and now agents go for revenge.
Gintaras Visockas: You have spent ten months in detention. Many people, both in Lithuania and abroad, are of the opinion that you are innocent. How do you cope with the Lithuanian prison?
Khadizhat Gataeva: Time flows slow here. I don’t feel well. I have to take medicines to help my heart. I am suffering from high blood pressure. In the beginning I had conflicts with the neighbor in my cell. The woman watched a lot of movies on Chechnya made in Russia. She really terrorized me telling that all the Chechens are bandits and Russia is doing good thing annihilating us. I tried to argue. I just tried to explain to her that Russia is lying creating such movies. I tried to tell that woman what I know about the war but she didn’t listen to me. She was more content with the version provided by Russia. But the prison administration soon moved her to another cell.
However, who can answer another question? Why our relatives, our children are deprived of the right to visit us? There is a woman in the prison who is sentenced under the same article as me. Nevertheless, her relatives visit her almost every day whereas I was allowed to see some of my children and my relatives only once in none months. We also have problems in getting letters delivered. It is very difficult for me to be without my children. I am sure that the children feel the same. I was raised in the orphanage. Therefore, I know how it feels.
Malik Gataev: I am trying hard to manage. My health is OK. Not much to complain. But nobody’s health can be fine in such a place. We have no complaints about the prison doctors or guards or its administration. We have established pretty normal, business-like, mutually respectful relations. However, I would be lying if I told that I am not taking hard what has happened to us. Stress has its affects. I have stomachaches, for instance. But what I am really concerned about is my wife’s health. Even before her arrest Khadizhat’s health was much to be desired. I was going to hospitalize her. But could not do it. Her fragile health has been damaged with arrest and imprisonment even more.
But what to do to treat moral wounds? We used to think that there is nothing scarier than the war. It turned out that there are things not less scary than a war. These are – betrayal, humiliation, deception, lies, injustice. It is very difficult to tell what we have experienced saving children from the war. Children are our future. We felt it our duty to raise as many Chechen kids as possible as decent, honest and good people. We tried to save them. And we have managed to do something. We don’t know what will happen next. We are really concerned about future. The family has been destroyed. What can we do to re-create it? Will we manage to re-create it? Some of our foster children don’t want to live in Lithuania any longer. They would like to move to some other countries where they won’t be harassed.
Gintaras Visockas: Could you tell in detail how you were brining up your children? There are various, most incredible gossips spreading in Lithuania.
Мalik Gataev: We brought up our children the way we were brought up by our parents and grandparents. I don’t think that our up-brining is significantly different from the Lithuanian mode. Certainly, stating that I refer to only normal families where children are raised in atmosphere of respect towards parents, where drug and alcohol usage is regarded as a problem, in which love for education is cultivated in children, in which daughters are not allowed to lead a loose life. At that, the whole performance with our arrest has turned us into some monsters. We are being portrayed as wild highlanders. It is a lie. We are normal parents. We don’t understand what kind of crime we committed. If we did something wrong not allowing our foster children to indulge in debauchery, then I fail to understand this world. It means that I will soon find myself back in prison even if I am released as I won’t be able to let my children wander drunk, not have any job and lead a dissolute life.
Children have their rights. But they have their duties too. There is no freedom without duties. I have devoted 12 years of my life to creating my family, both of my children and orphans. The family has been destroyed in the civilized, democratic and European Lithuania.
Khadizhat Gataeva: Once I asked prosecutor Nomeda Oskutite if she agreed to let her daughter even if she is of age to leave the house and to live with nobody know who, nobody knows with what kind of money or where. Yes, I stroke my daughter but I did it as a mother. I didn’t mutilate her, I didn’t terrorize her. I didn’t torture her. I didn’t humiliate her. I didn’t inflict any injuries upon her. I didn’t damager her health. I did it wishing only good for her. All the words had been exhausted by that time. Moreover, it was one single strike. Nobody tells about continuous beatings. After all, I stroke Seda to make come to her senses, stop provoking us, stop irritate us and humiliate us. Just imagine: a daughter records family quarrels with a dictaphone. Was it her ides or someone planted it in her head? Let Prosecutor Oskutite explain what the purpose was of Seda when she was recording our wrangles?
Malik Gataev: We have been told many times, “You should have observed Lithuanian, not Chechen traditions if you live in Lithuania”. But why I should be deprived of my right to keep to the Chechen mode of life in my family? After all, what is the difference between Lithuanian and Chechen mode of life? Do Lithuanians allow their children to lead a loose life, to get deadly drunk, to loaf about at night? Don’t Lithuanian parents have the right to scold their children even in such cases when children step aside from the right way? We are accused of ill-treating our children. But in the course of the time when we saw to them, there was no lust, no money stealing, no hard drinking. And now the children have scampered about: some have lost all their documents, some stole money they got from the donors which was meant to cover communal expenses, one boy was detained driving drunk and without license. The reason why we are in prison is absolutely different from the one which is stated by the authorities. We don’t know it. The Allah sees everything: we have been bringing our children up exactly in the way children in any normal Lithuanian family are treated. We have not broken any laws, neither Lithuanian, nor Chechen nor international. There is some reason behind our detention. It is bad that my wife stroke Seda, even once. In any case she should have forbore from hitting her. However, no one will go to prison for just one slap. To neither several months or several years as the prosecutor demands. Besides, no security agents would detain a mother for slapping a child.
Gintaras Visockas: What do you think about people who might be discontent with your activities in Lithuania? According to Oksana Chelysheva, she had been told about your coming problems one month before the arrest by Aminat Saieva. Or can it be Russia which is irritated you’re your activities to raise dozens of Chechen kids in Lithuania?
Malik Gataev: It is clear that we have crossed somebody’s road. We were about to find feet. We were getting firmly established. We have received international recognition. Books and articles had been published about us all. Famous film-makers used our story in both documentary and fiction films. We were receiving support from outspoken international organizations. Just before my arrest I was getting involved into attempt which would result in establishing a big international organization. People from Sweden, Norway, Finland would become actors in that organization. The organization would deal with guardianship and upbringing of children and I was supposed to take one of the leading positions. I don’t exclude that there might be people who would envy us. If Aminat knew that we would face serious trouble soon and she had not warned us about it, I refuse to consider her the representative of Chechnya in Lithuania. The genuine representative should care about all Chechens. It also arouses my suspicions that she has never tried to meet us or sent a letter to us during the nine months of our detention.
To speak frankly, we had a conflict between us and Aminat. If in 1997-1999 she tried to do something to establish the orphanage in Lithuania together with Algirdas Endrukajtis, in 2000 we went different ways. I can’t call it a quarrel but there was a conflict. I can’t deny it.
Gintaras Visockas: All the court sessions are closed for public. I assume that it also serves some intention. To all appearances, some Lithuanian law-enforcement agencies have organized it because they want little publicity on the charges incriminated on you as these charges are unconvincing.
Malik Gataev: We were not allowed to state all our arguments during the court trial. We were constantly interrupted by telling, «Enough”, “That will do!”, “It is clear”. At the same time, our opponents had abundance of time to make their statements. Those children who were giving testimonies in our support were neither allowed to speak. As soon as they said just a few sentences, the judge stopped them claiming that “they are diverting off the topic”, or just “enough”. Denis Volovskiy was subjected to psychological pressure in order to obtain evidence against us. He was threatened to be deported to Chechnya.
Gintaras Visockas: I have heard a number of opinions that it is strange that the prosecutor’s office bases their charges against you only on testimonies on so-called conflict, problem former forster children.
Malik Gataev: It is the right observation. Prosecutor Oskutite relies only on those people who have really breached Lithuanian laws more than once during the term of our imprisonment. I don’t tell that these people are bad. I just state that I know them a lot better than the prosecutor. I openly state that all these people are problem, conflict and very uncertain. They are still immature although they are adults. Let’s say the boy who is testifying against me. I don’t want to tell his name. If he was an angel, why he stole my car right after the arrest, why he was speeding and driving drunk, why he was driving without license? Oskutite relies on testimonies of such people only. If it is the case, let her pay the fine which he has to pay now. I am not going to pay for him. If the young man violated the laws at the time when I was in prison, I am not responsible for him and his actions. Yes, I expected my children to come back home before 10 pm and told off anyone who was late. I don’t regret that I introduced such regulations. I bear not only financial but moral responsibility for each and everyone of these children.
I have always liked to live in Lithuania. And I don’t have bad feelings about Luthuania and her people because Oskutite doesn’t represent the entire Lithuania.
Gintaras Visockas: Can you give details what kind of conflict you had with Seda? What did she want? What was she discontent with?
Malik Gataev: Seda is a very difficult person. She has been always in conflict with someone. I admit that I am neither an ideal father. But I tried to save her from life trouble which is inevitable if a person takes drugs and alcohol. She often ran away from the family because of love affairs, then she “divorced” and returned, then one more lover appeared and she was again in the mood “of getting married”. People came to me and told that they happened to observe Seda in many indecent situations. But she even admitted to several things at the court trial which don’t do any honour to both us and her. However, the prosecutor tends to believe only those people who are in the habit of misbehaving and who are inclined to committing offences and even crimes.
Gintaras Visockas: How did agents of Lithuanian security police treat you?
Malik Gataev: I remember all the details of the arrest. By the time I was arrested, Seda had already run away from home and I had filed my report on that to the police.
I was arrested at broad daylight. It was like in a detective movie. A car suddenly blocked my way and I had to stop. Some men got out of that car. They were all in plain suites. I even thought that they were bandits and was ready to defend myself. But then I noticed that they were all armed with guns. I realized that they must be with law agencies as criminal tend to hid their guns rather than show them. I didn’t offer any resistance when I was detained. I suspected that they must be with special law agency. I was unaware what service was arresting me and why. I felt quiet. It was clear that some misunderstanding occurred and that I would released soon. However, I was moved somewhere with my hands cuffed and with a cloth bag over my head. I was brought to the headquarters of the security police in Kaunas. They personally didn’t threaten me. It was Nomeda Oskutite who I met there for the first time who demanded that I tell the whole truth, including about conflicts with Seda. I told everything I knew, including about my worries. Then she responded, that “I am telling fairy tales to her”. I told her that she is not a little girl to be told fairy tales. I didn’t feel guilty of the crimes that she tried to attribute to me. Let’s say, “money extortion”. I could not force Seda to give me any money as she didn’t have any money.
Khadizhat Gataeva: I was waiting for my husband downtown as we had a lot of urgent things to catch up with. But he was late. I started calling his number but he didn’t respond. Then I got scared. I apprehended that something was going wrong. I was arrested by a man and a woman who were dressed in civilian clothes. The hardest thing was that I was not explained why I was arrested and I was not allowed to warn my husband and the children. Then I was taken to the police office where I was told that I would be released very soon if I admitted to all the crimes. Possibly, the next morning, they told. Then Oskutite arrived and told me the same. When she started to enumerate all the charges, I was shocked. I felt bad and an ambulance was called. I was taken to hospital. Just imagine, I was accused of human trafficking, kidnapping and money extortion. After the hospital, it all started again, “just sign your confession. Don’t be afraid. We have already dropped the most severe charge of selling people”…
Oskutite treated me as if she hates me personally. When I asked her if she encouraged her daughter to stay away at nights and to live with a man out of marriage, she started laughing telling that I was not going to see my children for long. Agents of the secret police were also laughing. This kind of humiliation really hurt. I also happened to witness one strange thing when Oskutite was hugging and kissing Seda as if they were really close to each other. How did we learn it? Once we were made to see testimonies of the so-called victims. They wanted us to comment on them. We were watching them from a different room on a screen. Once during a break they didn’t turn off the equipment and we saw Oskutite and Seda hugging each other. Then our guards saw it and immediately turned it off.
Malik Gataev: I also saw that scene. It was really unpleasant for me as I was overwhelmed with many suspicions.
Gintaras Visockas: The organization you were planning to establish “Help to Children” would deal with political issues?
Malik Gataev: No. It was my principle to distance myself and the family from politics. I never communicated to dubious people. I avoided companies with those who I didn’t know. I was not in contact with any secret service, either of Lithuania or of any other state. I was interested only in helping children. My Chechen children are of different ethnicities. Chechens, Russians, Dagestan lived in my house. However, I don’t exclude likelihood that our activity would displease those politicians who would like to rule and command Chechens to achieve their own aims
Khadizhat Gataeva: Oskutite asked many times during the trial who had washed Seda’s clothes, who had made her meals and who served Seda her meals. Next moment Oskutite stated that Seda was of legal age to take care of herself and that we should have let her go. This is a contradiction. If Seda was of legal age to decide her life, why we were supposed to wash her clothes and serve her meals?
Malik Gataev: I feel ashamed that some of my children are now known as drug-addicts and libetrtines. What I told Seda would sound something like that: “ It is not enough to take your head off for what you did”. But it is not a threat. It is a saying which means nothing else but strong indignation and disappointment. It was not a threat to kill. The one who intends to kill, don’t speak much of it. They never speak about the intention to kill.
Gintaras Visockas: Still, how you would explain the role of the security police in your case?
Malik Gataev: I am sure that security police of Lithuania are intentionally misled by some people. I have not done anything to become interesting for your security police. I feel that some misinformation had been planted to which your agents reacted too eagerly. I don’t know who staged the provocation. It is a matter of honour for your security police to correct the mistake they made. None is secured from mistakes. But I have to state again: the Gataev are not terrorists or agents of security services of hostile states or criminals. Our conscience is pure and clean.