Week-ending 22 January 2021
On 18 January 2021 a Moscow court sentenced Azat Miftakhov, a postgraduate student of mathematics, to six years in prison on charges of hooliganism for allegedly breaking a windown and throwing a smoke bomb into an empty office of the United Russia political party. As Human Rights Watch stated, Miftakhov’s trial was ‘marred by allegations of torture, and reliance on unfair “secret witnesses”.’ A spokesperson for the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said: “The allegations we are hearing with regard to this case are certainly of concern, and we will continue to follow its development closely.”
Human Rights Watch, 18 January 2021: A court in Moscow has sentenced Azat Miftakhov, a postgraduate math student and political activist, to six years in prison on highly controversial hooliganism charges. His conviction follows investigation and a trial marred by allegations of torture, and reliance on unfair “secret witnesses.” Miftakhov spent nearly two years in pretrial detention before yesterday’s verdict. He and two other political activists were accused of breaking a window and throwing a smoke bomb inside an empty Moscow office of United Russia, the country’s ruling party, in January 2018. The prosecution qualified the act as hooliganism aggravated by ‘political hatred.’ The other two defendants received suspended sentences of between two and four years.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 19 January 2021: Russia’s persecution of Azat Miftakhov, a PhD student at Moscow State University is almost certainly linked with his anarchist views, however the 6-year sentence handed down on 18 January also looks like punishment for refusing to admit to something he did not do. The Golovina District Court in Moscow sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment in a medium security prison colony purely on the basis of a ‘secret witness’ who claimed to remember him standing and watching while three others broke the window of an office of the ruling United Russia party and threw a smoke bomb inside. Two other defendants – Yelena Gorban and Andrei Eikin, who had ‘confessed’ to committing this very minor offence, received suspended sentences. Miftakhov has long been recognized as a political prisoner, and his release had been demanded by a huge number of academics, both in Russia and abroad. The calls were ignored, with judge Sergei Bazarov passing virtually exactly the sentences demanded by the prosecutor.
RFE/RL, 20 January 2021: A pan-European human rights watchdog has expressed concern after a Russian court handed a long prison sentence for hooliganism to a university mathematics student who says he was tortured while in custody. “The allegations we are hearing with regard to this case are certainly of concern, and we will continue to follow its development closely,” a spokeswoman at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) told RFE/RL on January 20, two days after 25-year-old Azat Miftakhov was sentenced to six years in prison. “ODIHR is continually following the human rights situation in all 57 countries of the OSCE region, and frequently raises issues with individual states,” Katya Andrusz said. The press service of the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization, on Janaruy 19 said the organization was following the case “closely.”