‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Three Crimean Muslims convicted of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir are political prisoners

19 July 2022

Ernest Ibragimov, Oleg Fedorov and Zekiriya Muratov have been prosecuted under terrorist articles of the Russian Criminal Code without being accused of terrorism

Source: Political Prisoners Memorial

The ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project, in accordance with international standards, considers Crimea residents Ernest Ibragimov, Oleg Fedorov and Zekiriya Muratov political prisoners. The three have been prosecuted for the non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of religion and association. 

We demand their immediate release and that all criminal charges against them be dropped.

What are the charges against the three Crimean Muslims?

On 11 February 2022 the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Zekirya Muratov to 11 years and 6 months in prison on charges of participation in a terrorist organisation (Article 205.5, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and preparing a violent seizure of power (Article 30, Part 1, in conjunction with Article 278 of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 7 July 2022 Ernest Ibragimov and Oleg Fedorov were each sentenced by the same court to 13 years’ imprisonment on the same charges.

What these cases have in common is that none of the defendants were charged with involvement in any new, recently discovered groups of Hizb ut-Tahrir followers. The Investigative Committee has simply added the latest prosecutions to the numerous cases already heard by the courts against Crimean Tatars, considering the three defendants as new members of ‘cells’ that have previously been the subject of prosecution. Ernest Ibragimov and Oleg Fedorov were remanded in custody as members of the so-called ‘Second Bakhchisarai Group.’ Investigators considered Zekiriya Muratov a member of the ‘Alushta group.’ 

All these cases are based on the testimony of the same secret witnesses, who gradually recall the names of new members of ‘cells,’ and audio recordings of meetings of believers from many years ago.

Why do we consider the three to be political prisoners?

According to the materials submitted to the courts by the investigative authorities, the three convicted persons – Ibragimov, Fedorov and Muratov – were allegedly members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a party banned in Russia. There is no evidence whatsoever in the criminal cases that the three Crimeans actually prepared acts of terrorism, made terrorist threats or prepared a coup d’état. Moreover, the investigative authorities did not even try to prove anything of the kind.

The ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project considers, as did the now closed  Memorial Human Rights Centre previously, the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation to be unlawful and unfounded. Despite the fact that the Russian Supreme Court’s ruling of 2003 contains no evidence of terrorist activities by Hizb ut-Tahrir, in recent years hundreds of Muslims have faced criminal prosecution on charges of involvement in this organisation. Every year the courts impose ever more severe sentences on the believers.

The use of the testimony of secret witnesses as key evidence in trials of participants in Hizb ut-Tahrir is common practice by the FSB. We believe this practice to be pernicious since it facilitates the fabrication of evidence and limits the trial rights of the accused.

In annexed Crimea, the prosecution of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir is used as a means to suppress public solidarity and civic activity among Crimean residents, especially Crimean Tatars (with few exceptions, defendants in Hizb ut-Tahrir cases belong to this ethnic group). Crimean Tatars have tended to take a negative view of the 2014 annexation of the peninsula and ever since have been victims of persecution. In Ukraine, Hizb ut-Tahrir still operates legally.

It is important to emphasise that both prosecutions on such charges and the forcible removal of Crimean residents from Crimea are gross violations of the norms of international humanitarian law.

More information about the cases of Zekirya Muratov, Ernest Ibragimov and Oleg Fedorov and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project is available on our Telegram channel.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can send electronic letters to the political prisoners of Crimea via the website of Crimean Solidarity.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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