OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 307: 14 years’ imprisonment for giving help to some Muslims

27 May 2023

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Convicted human rights activist Bakhrom Khamroev. Photo: personal social media


Hello! A human rights activist has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for helping some Muslims, a political prisoner has been relegated to the ‘excluded’ caste because of the actions of the FSB, and the Supreme Court has dissolved PARNAS.

Bakhrom Khamroev, a human rights activist, has been sentenced to 14 years in a strict regime penal colony. The former member of the now-dissolved Memorial Human Rights Centre was found guilty of the justification of terrorism online and of participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation. Khamroev will spend the first three years of his sentence in a cell-type prison. The criminal case against Khamroev was brought because of Facebook posts which police officers considered expressed support for the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also for assisting Muslims accused of involvement in the party. The human rights activist himself claims he was never a member of the organisation.

  • Why is this important? More than 330 supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been prosecuted across Russia – often on the sole grounds that these believers meet in apartments, read religious literature and recruit new members. It turns out that even defending them is dangerous: Bakhrom Khamroev, for example, was accused of representing defendants in Hizb ut-Tahrir cases in the courts and helping them receive political asylum. “14 years is no joke. At his age this is almost a life sentence. In other countries, even under dictatorial regimes, fewer years are given on similar charges,” the human rights activist’s lawyer, Timofei Shirokov commented on the decision.

A political prisoner has claimed he was relegated to the ‘excluded’ caste in a penal colony because of the actions of the FSB. According to his wife, mathematician Azat Miftakhov was transferred to this ‘caste’ because of his bisexuality. This happened back in 2019 – at that point, the FSB used intimate photographs against Miftakhov, passing information to other inmates who then classified him as belonging to the lowest prison caste. The young man had been found guilty in a case of an attack on a United Russia office at the end of January 2018. At the time he was sent to the prison colony for six years, although his sentence was later reduced to five years and nine months in prison.

  • Why do I need to know this? A rigid hierarchical system operates to this day in the institutions of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Homosexual and bisexual men usually end up in the lowest caste of ‘excluded’, ‘offended’ or ‘roosters’ as they are known, as do those who have been subjected to sexualised or certain other forms of violence.  Usually such prisoners are held separately from the others, and forced to undertake heavy, dirty work. The ingenuity of the security forces is astounding – they always find ways to make the life of someone already under severe punishment worse.

The People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS) has been dissolved. The Supreme Court took the decision after the Ministry of Justice had earlier filed a suit to that effect. The ministry said the party had violated the requirement on the number of regional branches: they were supposed to operate in no less than half the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Justice noticed that Russia has 89 regions, including the occupied regions of Ukraine, and PARNAS had only 40 branches. However, representatives of the party said in court that they had 44 branches, and the occupied regions should not be included in the number of regions for calculating the minimum threshold, because they lack a fully-fledged system of executive power.

  • Why is this important? The People’s Freedom Party emerged in 2012 from the Republican Party of Russia, which had been founded back in the 1990s. PARNAS considers its aim to be ‘the transformation of Russia into a country where the individual and their rights and freedoms are the highest value, and their defence is the main duty of the state’. However, in contemporary Russia politicians who do not support the actions of the regime are not wanted. So the authorities find various ways to get rid of competitors.

A Crimean man has been sentenced to 18 years in jail in a Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Ernes Seystomanov will have to spend the first four years in a cell-type prison, and will then be transferred to a penal colony. The court also imposed another year and a half of restricted freedom on Seystomanov after his release. Seystomanov was found guilty of organising the activities of a terrorist organisation and preparing for a violent seizure of power. “Terrorism is a particularly  serious legal article. It’s a crime in Islam, and is categorically condemned. As a Muslim, I am categorically opposed to terrorism and I consider the article under which I am being accused to be defamation,’ he said in his final address to the court.

  • Why do I need to know this? We have already mentioned above the criminal prosecutions for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, but such a sentence seems particularly monstrous even in comparison with the sentences handed down against other people prosecuted for involvement in this party. During his time in pre-trial detention, Ernes Seystomanov’s chronic health conditions worsened, and he began having stomach pain. In prison his health problems are likely to worsen. Prisoners suffering from various ailments seldom receive good-quality treatment, and poor food and constant stress do not help them recover.


How a family of artists has been sent to prison for anti-war graffiti. Liudmila Razumova and Aleksander Martynov, residents of Tver region, were sentenced to seven and six and a half years in jail respectively for vandalism and disseminating ‘fake news’ about the Russian army on account of their anti-war online posts and graffiti. Both were defended by lawyers from OVD-Info. They were later sentenced. Together with Spectrum, we tell Razumova and Martynov’s story. You can read it on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium

Translated by Anna Bowles

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