2 March 2020
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Almaz Usmanov, Zafar Yakubov and Danil Bagautdinov have been sentenced under terrorist articles of the Russian Criminal Code to terms in prison colonies ranging from 11 to 17 years without having been charged with terrorism
Memorial Human Rights Centre believes the prosecution of three Muslims from the cities of Kazan and Ufa – Zafar Yakubov, Danil Bagautdinov and Almaz Usmanov – has been politically motivated and is based on the individuals’ non-violent exercise of the rights of freedom of conscience and association. In accordance with international guidelines, Almaz Usmanov, Zafar Yakubov and Danil Bagautdinov are political prisoners. Memorial demands their immediate release.
Detention and trials
- Two Muslims from Kazan – Zafar Yakubov and Danil Bagautdinov – were detained in April 2018. In December 2019 the Central District Military Court sentenced Yakubov to 17 years in a strict regime prison colony and Bagautdinov to 11 years in a strict regime prison colony.
- Almaz Usmanov, a Muslim from Ufa, was remanded in custody in August 2018. In August 2019, Volga District Military Court sentenced him to 11 years in a strict regime prison colony.
FSB: membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir is terrorist activity
- According to the FSB, from January 2016 until March 2017 Zafar Yakubov, together with three other Muslims, organised at least 40 ‘campaigning meetings to promote the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir,’ an international Islamic party designated a terrorist organisation by the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. Thereby he committed the offence of organising the activity of a terrorist organisation (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). In addition, Yakubov collected membership fees from one of the the participants of these assemblies ‘valued at no less than 2,400 roubles’ for the financing of terrorism (Article 205.1, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). He used this money to acquire ‘things necessary for the printing of books and brochures that were fundamental ideological materials’ of Hizb ut-Tahrir and gave assistance to the members of the party who are behind bars.
- Danil Bagautdinov joined Hizb ut-Tahrir, according to the prosecution, no later than 2013, thereby taking part in the activity of a terrorist organisation (Article 205.5, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). From that time onwards he took part in dozens of meetings at which the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir was studied and ‘potential candidates were brought into’ the organisation.
- According to the FSB, from 2016 until 2018 Almaz Usmanov was a participant in the Ufa branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Article 205.5, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). He attended meetings of the cell as a ‘student’ where in addition to studying the ‘ideology and literature of Hizb ut-Tahrir’ he ‘actively induced those of Islamic faith to take part in the activity’ of this organisation.
Why Memorial considers the three Muslims political prisoners
The convicted Muslims turned out to be guilty solely of having been participants in a civil society association. They were not charged with preparing acts of terrorism or making terrorist threats. There is no indication whatsoever in the case that the defendants committed or planned to commit acts of violence, still less actions that could be called terrorist in the commonsense meaning of the term.
Memorial believes the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation is unlawful. The ruling of the Supreme Court, adopted at a closed session without any representatives of the association being present, contains only one paragraph of three sentences about Hizb ut-Tahrir. These sentences contain no evidence of terrorist activities.
The designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation allows any of its activities to be considered ‘terrorism.’ Meetings, drinking tea or praying together are all terrorism. The purchase of literature and the collection of funds to assist those of similar views who have been arrested is the financing of terrorism.
We note that Article 28 of the Russian Constitution protects these actions of believers. Article 28 guarantees ‘freedom of conscience and of religion, including the right to profess either individually or together with others any religion or no religion, to freely elect, have and advocate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them.’
In the years since Hizb ut-Tahrir was designated a terrorist organisation in 2003 hundreds of Muslims have been prosecuted on charges of taking part in it. With each year the courts sentence believers to ever-longer terms of deprivation of liberty (up to 24 years in a strict regime prison colony). At the present time more than 300 people are being prosecuted on charges of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The ‘solving’ of series of cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir, maximally simplified in order to achieve ‘high results,’ requires minimum effort by the security services, who use these cases to improve their statistics for solving crimes many times over (thereby proving their usefulness). We see the security services manipulating the threat of terrorism, substituting an imitation for real action to combat terrorism. At the same time, this manipulation of the threat of terrorism is used to justify the adoption of laws restricting civil rights. In this way, actions that are nothing more than an imitation of combating terrorism strengthen the powers of those in authority.
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.
How to help
You can support all political prisoners in Russia by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This press release is republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre