Memorial Human Rights Centre: A Chechen from Kazakhstan, convicted of justifying terrorism on the basis of videos on social networks, is a political prisoner

21 July 2020

Aitakhadzhi Khalimov saved three videos containing archive footage from the first Chechen war on his VKontakte page. A court sentenced him to 3.5 years’ imprisonment on charges of justifying of terrorism.

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


Who is Aitakhadzhi Khalimov

Aitakhadzhi Khalimov is an ethnic Chechen whose ancestors were deported to Kazakhstan during Stalin’s time but then returned to their homeland.

Khalimov was born in 1993 in Chechnya. In 1999, after his father’s death and the resumption of war in the Caucasus, his mother took her children, including Aitakhadzhi, to relatives who had remained in Kazakhstan. He spent most of his life in the village of Malaya Saran in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda region.

In October 2019, Aitakhadzhi Khalimov and his wife Kamila went to Kaliningrad, where he found a job and received a temporary residence permit.

On 24 December 2019, he was detained and then remanded in custody on charges of justifying and advocating terrorism (Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 10 June 2020, the 2nd Western District Military Court found Khalimov guilty and sentenced him to three and a half years in a general regime prison colony.

The charges against him

The materials of the case assert that two young sailors in the Russian navy (one a military topographer, the other a gun commander) from a Kaliningrad unit almost simultaneously discovered Khalimov’s page on the Vkontakte social network where they discovered three saved videos of the first Chechen war. They considered the videos ‘evidence of justifying terrorism’ and reported the matter to the FSB in Kaliningrad region. 

The videos had been published long before by other users. They contain military footage of events from the 1990s set to music. One of the recordings is a song by popular Chechen singer Khas-Magomed Khadzhimuradov, dedicated to the 19th century Caucasian War. An assessment by experts considered this to be evidence of justification of terrorism. The recording was made in 1997 during a concert by Khadzhimuradov in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses.

The forensic assessment concluded that the videos presented a positive view of the Chechen separatists who fought in the war of the mid-1990s and therefore constituted justification and advocacy of terrorism, while at the same time admitting that ‘the videos in question contain no signs of incitement to any illegal activity.’ 

Why Memorial considers Khalimov a political prisoner

The videos that gave rise to Khalimov’s prosecution are still freely available. We have viewed their content and believe that they do not contain incitement to any action or discussion of any ideology.

The prosecution bears clear signs of fabrication. The fact that the videos were quickly (within a week) and accidentally discovered by military service personnel appears very doubtful, given that Khalimov did not post them on a social network, but only saved them on his personal page.

At the trial there was no attempt to analyse whether interference with the right to freedom of expression in the present case was proportionate and necessary in a democratic society. 

We believe the charge and conviction to be unfounded and that the prosecution of Khalimov to be politically motivated, since his right to freedom of expression has been violated. The charges against him fit into a strategy of the Russian authorities to suppress freedom of expression in the country and intimidate Russian society. His imprisonment has been imposed in violation of his right to a  fair trial. 

Memorial considers Aitakhadzhi Khalimov a political prisoner and demands his immediate release.

For more information about the case of Khalimov, see our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected]

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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