Memorial Human Rights Centre: Eleven residents of Crimea prosecuted for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir are political prisoners

31 January 2020

On trial under terrorism articles of the Russian Criminal Code, they have not been charged with terrorism

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre believes the prosecution of 11 Crimean Tatars is politically motivated. They are being prosecuted for the non-violent realisation of their rights to freedom of conscience, belief, association and peaceful assembly. In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Marlen Asanov, Server Zekiryaev, Ernes Ametov, Timur Ibragimov, Seiran Saliev, Memet Belyalov, Server Mustafaev, Edem Smailov, Rustem Emiruseinov, Eskender Abdulganiev and Arsen Abkhairov are political prisoners. Memorial demands their immediate release.

The ‘Bakhchisarai case’

Asanov, Zekiryaev, Ametov, Ibragimov, Saliev, Belyalov, Mustafaev and Smailov, all residents of the Bakhchisarai district in Crimea, were detained by the FSB in the autumn of 2017 and the spring of 2018. Since the autumn of 2019, they have been on trial at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. The defendants are held on remand in the city’s pre-trial facility.

The Federal Security Agency [FSB] asserts that, not later than 2016, Asanov, Belyalov and Ibragimov organised in Bakhkchisarai activities of the international Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, designated as a terrorist organisation in Russia (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). Zekiryaev, Ametov, Saliev, Mustafaev and Smailov joined the organisation (Article 205.5, Section 2). All these Muslims have been charged with ‘conducting religious and political training sessions’ and ‘disseminating the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir.’

In addition, they have been charged with preparing to seize power (Article 30, Section 1; Article 278). The charge is based on the programme of Hizb ut-Tahrir that foresees the unification of territories with a Muslim population in a single state – the Caliphate. Since there are also regions of that kind in Russia, in the view of the investigators, the defendants, in seeking to spread the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘were acting to create the conditions for the violent seizure of power and the violent alteration of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation.’

The ‘Krasnogvardeiskoe case’

Abdulganiev, Abkhairov and Emiruseinov were arrested in February 2019. The trial is beginning at the Southern District Military Court, as a result of which they have been moved from a remand centre in Simferopol to one in Rostov.

According to the investigators, Emiruseinov created a cell of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea’s Krasnogvardeiskoe district no later than 2017 (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code), while Abdulganiev and Abkhairov became participants in the cell (Article 205.5, Section 2). The FSB asserts that the defendants studied Islam, the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir and conducted agitation among their fellow villagers.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: the prosecution of Muslims in both cases is politically motivated

The sole offence of the Crimea residents proved to be participation in a banned civil society organisation. There is no evidence at all to indicate that they committed or planned to commit crimes of violence, still less any actions that could be called terrorist as a matter of common sense — they have not been charged with either threatening to commit or preparing acts of terrorism.

Memorial considers the 2003 designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation to be unlawful. The text of the decision of the Supreme Court, that in one swoop banned the activities of a large group of Islamic organisations, devoted one paragraph of three sentences to Hizb ut-Tahrir, sentences that cited no evidence of terrorist activities.

In the years since the decision of the Supreme Court designating Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organisation, hundreds of Muslims have been criminally prosecuted for participation in the organisation. At the present time about 300 people are behind bars. After the annexation of Crimea, Muslims living in the peninsula also became victims of persecution. At least 60 Crimean Muslims at present have been deprived of their liberty.

The ‘solving’ of the many cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir, using procedures that have been simplified as much as possible, reduces to a minimum the effort required to achieve the ‘best results’. These cases enable the security services to raise their performance results many times over (and therefore demonstrate their own usefulness), manipulating the notion of the terrorist threat while substituting an imitation of the fight against terrorism for the real thing. At the same time, it is precisely this anti-terrorist rationale that is used to justify the adoption of laws restricting civil rights. In this way, the imitation of a struggle against terrorism strengthens the powers of the authorities.

The injustice and unlawfulness of the prosecution of Muslims for participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir is aggravated in Crimea by the fact that under Ukrainian law the organisation functioned legally. According to documents gathered by investigators in the case, many of those charged had lawfully become members of Hizb ut-Tahrir before the Russian occupation of Crimea. Furthermore, criminal prosecution on charges of participation in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea, and the methods used, in our view violate the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and also the norms of ordinary humanitarian law. Most of the defendants are participants in Crimean Solidarity, an association providing assistance to political prisoners and their families. On a daily basis, Crimean Solidarity reports on human rights violations by Russian law enforcement officers in Crimea and speaks out in criticism of the authorities. We agree with Crimean Solidarity that the prosecution of its activists is intended as a blow against the organisation’s work and to silence critics of the authorities.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

More information about these cases can be read on our website: about the Bakhchisarai case here; and about the Krasnogvardeiskoe case here.
Reprinted by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

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