Legal Case of the Week: Three Crimean Tatars sentenced to long prison terms for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir

Week-ending 6 November 2020

Photo: RFE/RL

Three Crimean Tatars – Rustem Emiruseinov, Arsen Abkhaitov and Eskendir Abulganiyev – have been sentenced to long prison terms for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation legal in Ukraine but banned in Russia as a terrorist organisation. The mother of Rustem Emiruseinov, Zurye Emiruseinova, was taken to hospital on 31 October with high blood pressure after police tried to detain her for conducting a solitary picket in her son’s defence .

NB The reports below state that Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned as ‘extremist’ in Russia, but the organisation is banned as ‘terrorist‘ [ Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organisations are banned as ‘extremist‘]

RFE/RL reported on Tuesday, 3 November 2020: A court in Russia has sentenced three Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on charges of being members of a banned Islamic group. The Southern Military Regional court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on November 3 sentenced Rustem Emiruseinov to 17 years, Arsen Abkhaitov to 13 years, and Eskendir Abulganiyev to 12 years in prison. The three men were found guilty of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic, a group that has been labeled as extremist and banned in Russia, but is legal in Ukraine. They were arrested in February last year after police searched their homes in Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Crimea. Some 200 people gathered in front of the court’s building on November 3 to support the defendants. Police detained several of the gathered people, including three journalists.

Human Rights in Ukraine reported on Monday, 2 November 2020: Zurye Emiruseinova was taken to hospital on 31 October with dangerously high blood pressure after Russian-controlled police harassed and then tried to detain her for a legal solitary picket in defence of her political prisoner son, Rustem Emiruseinov.  As if it were not enough that the Crimean Tatar civic activist is facing an 18-year sentence for his faith and support for other victims of persecution, the Russian-controlled enforcement officers went for his mother. At around 11 a.m. on 31 October, Zurye Emiruseinova came out onto the side of a main road near the village of Oktyabrske with a placard reading ‘My son is not a terrorist’.  Her daughter-in-law was at a perfectly safe distance, from where she was streaming the picket onto Facebook.  The elderly lady had only been standing there for around three minutes, when the officers appeared.  One said he was the deputy head of police on ‘protecting public order’ and demanded to see Zurye Emiruseinova’s documents.

In further news, reported by RFE/RL on Friday, 6 November 2020: Five alleged members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group, labeled as extremist and banned in Russia, have been detained in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan. The Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement on November 6 that its officers, along with National Guard troops, detained five individuals suspected of propagating “terrorist ideas” among Tatarstan’s Muslims. The statement said that computers, electronic devices, and books containing Hizb ut-Tahrir’s teachings that envision the establishment of a caliphate on Russia’s territory were confiscated. Since January, 10 residents of Tatarstan have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms of between 11 and 22 years for being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

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