9 January 2021
By Lev Ponomarev, executive director of For Human Rights, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group:
“THIS COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED TO FOREIGN MASS MEDIA ACTING AS A FOREIGN AGENT, AND (OR) RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITIES ACTING AS A FOREIGN AGENT.” A notice especially for Roskomnadzor [Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications]. I hope the font is large enough, dear Roskomnadzor?
The New Year’s hiatus is coming to an end. And on the very first working day — 11 January — a verdict. This time, for the young mathematician Azat Miftakhov, on whom the FSB [Federal Security Service] has a death grip.
At some point, Novichok’s knights and the taser were set a task: to solve the problem of intractable youth. In the years 2017-2018, their main target was young groups of anarchists and antifascists. Their methods have remained the same since 1937: provocation, fabrication of criminal cases, torture. Azat Miftakhov’s case arose in the context of the Network* and New Greatness cases, and according to one version, originally they wanted to attach Miftakhov to the Network* case.
They came for Azat on the morning of 1 February 2019. The official charge was “manufacture of a homemade explosive device,” and according to documents he was arrested only on 2 February. When after twenty-four hours a lawyer was finally able to get in to see Miftakhov, he told him how they’d beaten him, demanding a confession, and put a screw gun to his chest and threatened to turn it on, and to be sure to stick it into his rear passage.
This crude Chekist operation came with a massive news rollout. REN-TV promptly put out a piece in which it was reported that the graduate student had admitted to manufacturing a bomb and had maintained “an intimate liaison with one of his teachers.” The Telegram channel Oper Slil posted a photo of Azat and a photo of his passport, with the comment: “Well, how about it, Azat, a good fuck in the butt… we did warn you — stop your foolishness).” A couple of days later, Rossiya 24 joined in.
Miftakhov did not sign any confessions. The court refused to remand him in custody for lack of sufficient evidence of his involvement in any crime. Immediately after his “liberation,” though, Miftakhov was immediately seized again, now on a very different charge.
Miftakhov was attached to the criminal case on the broken window in the United Russia office. At first, this was a banal vandalism case. Up to three months’ jail is the maximum punishment. But then it gradually started turning into Hooliganism Committed by a Group of Individuals on Account of Political Hatred. Now it’s up to seven years. Not bad, right?
According to the story of one of the suspects, Rechkalov, they put a bag over his head and tased him to make him say he was the leader of the anarchist movement People’s Self-Defence. According to law enforcement, the movement’s participants “engaged in vandalism, hooliganism, and attacks on administrative buildings and government institutions for the purpose of destabilizing the sociopolitical situation in Russia as well as to bring about an unconstitutional change of power by organizing mass riots in Moscow along the lines of the ‘colour revolutions.’” Couldn’t it just have been a broken window? It had to be a Major Criminal Case. A case that as a result would also find room for MGU [Moscow State University] grad student and anarchist Azat Miftakhov.
By the way, about the screw gun. Its traces on Miftakhov’s body were recorded by members of the Public Oversight Commission. As of now, the Investigative Committee has nine (exclamation point!) times refused to open a case on the use of force. That’s why they could let themselves go. They tortured a Group of Individuals, By Previous Agreement, On Account of Political Hatred.
What kind of response can there be to all these dirty tricks? Obviously, only a change of political regime in the country. We are sick to death of their Major Criminal Cases. But right now we can oppose them only with our solidarity and mass support.
It is essential to be at the pronouncement of Miftakhov’s verdict and to summon people there. People say there’s reason to hope. We’ll just see.
Golovinsky District Court, 12:00. 11 January 2021.
*an organization deemed to be terrorist and banned in the Russian Federation.
Translated by Marian Schwartz
Update: On 18 January 2021 Azat Miftakhov was sentenced to six years in prison. See: Damelya Aitkhozhina, ‘Another Political Activist Jailed in Russia. Azat Miftakhov Sentenced to 6 Years on Controversial Hooliganism Charges,’ Human Rights Watch, 18 January 2021