‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Three Muslims from Lyantor in the  Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District are political prisoners

6 October 2022

Gamid Dataev, Artem Vatrya and Bekhruz Ganiev are facing trumped up charges of terrorism and also of possession of weapons and drugs.

Source: Telegram

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers Gamid Dataev, Artem Vatrya and Bekhruz Ganiev political prisoners in accordance with international standards. Their criminal cases have been fabricated and their criminal prosecutions appear to be retribution by law enforcement officers against activists for defending the rights of local Muslims.

We demand the release of Gamid Dataev, Artem Vatrya and Bekhruz Ganiev and that all criminal charges against them be dropped.

Who are Dataev, Vatrya and Ganiev and what are the charges against them?

Gamid Dataev, Bekhruz Ganiev and Artem Vatrya are three Muslims from the town of Lyantor in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District.

Artem Vatrya became well-known in Lyantor after he launched a campaign in May 2018 to draw media attention to widespread violations of Muslims’ rights in the town. At the time, the town’s law enforcement agencies conducted official and unofficial ‘raids’ in Lyantor during which local Muslims were taken directly from their apartments, beaten, and then charged with administrative offences and fined.

After it became publicly known that Muslims had been tortured in Lyantor police station, harassment of local Muslims ceased, although the Investigative Committee refused to open a criminal investigation into abuse of authority by officers during the special operation in the town.

On 1 April 2020 Artem Vatrya, Gamid Dataev and Bekhruz Ganiev were detained. All three were charged with possessing weapons (Article 222, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code) and explosives (Article 222.1, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code) and manufacturing explosives (Article 223.1, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code). In addition, Dataev was accused of possessing drugs (Article 228, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).

The defendants themselves alleged that the drugs, weapons, and ammunition had been planted on them by police officers. Furthermore, Dataev alleged that law enforcement officers had tortured him for several hours with electric shocks in an attempt to make him confess. Traces of torture on Dataev’s body were documented by his lawyer.

On 15 December 2020, when the maximum term of detention for Dataev and Vatrya had expired, they were released from custody only to be immediately rearrested and charged, under administrative law, with disorderly conduct and failing to obey the lawful demands of police officers.

On 17 December 2020 a new criminal case was opened against Dataev on charges of creating a terrorist group (Article 205.4, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and against Vatrya and Ganiev for participating in a terrorist group (Article 205.4, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). In addition, all three were charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack (Article 30, Part 1(a), in conjunction with Article 205, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The investigators claimed that Dataev, Ganiev and Vatrya had allegedly been preparing to blow up a mosque in Lyantor and kill its imam. On these charges, they could be kept in custody for more than 12 months.

Since September 2021 the trial of the Lyantor Muslims has been taking place at the Central District Military Court in Ekaterinburg.

Why do we consider Dataev, Vatrya and Ganiev political prisoners?

We have analysed the materials of the criminal cases and the circumstances of the prosecutions of Gamid Dataev, Artem Vatrya and Bekhruz Ganiev and have concluded that the cases against them are evidently fabricated and their prosecutions are clearly politically motivated.

The criminal cases against Dataev, Vatrya and Ganiev are replete with procedural violations and falsifications. For example, their arrests were conducted without witnesses, as evidenced by video footage, and are in fact abductions.

Statements by Dataev, Vatrya, and Ganiev, who maintain their innocence and say law enforcement officers planted weapons, ammunition and drugs on them, are supported not only by the testimony of the relatives of the accused, but also by the results of forensic examinations, most of which found no traces of the accused on the items that allegedly belonged to them.

The refusal of the supervisory and investigative authorities to look into the accusations of abductions, fabrication of evidence and use of force and torture to extract confessions does not make the investigators’ version any more convincing. On the contrary, prior to the filing of the grave charges of terrorism, the investigators had been unable to convincingly prove any guilt on the part of Vatrya and Dataev and consequently had been forced to release them from pre-trial custody in December 2020.

We consider that the prosecutions of Dataev, Vatrya, and Ganiev are in line with the overall strategy of Russia’s security services to destroy independent Muslim communities under the pretext of fighting extremism and terrorism. Moreover, their prosecutions can be seen as retribution by the law enforcement authorities against civil society activists who have actively opposed, and with some success, the arbitrary violence of the local authorities.

More information about this case and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project is available on our publishing platform on Telegram.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our temporary website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner 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 letters by ordinary mail to the following address:

In Russian: 620024, г. Екатеринбург, ул. Елизаветинское шоссе, д. 19, ФКУ СИЗО-5 ГУФСИН России по Свердловской области

  • Датаеву Гамиду Джанбулатовичу, 1991 г.р.
  • Ватре Артёму Витальевичу, 1994 г.р.
  • Ганиеву Бехрузу Бахромовичу, 1990 г.р.

In English: Remand Prison No. 5, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Sverdlovsk Region, 19 Elizavetinskoe Shosse, Ekaterinburg, 620024, Russia.

  • Gamid Dzhanbulatovich Dataev (born 1991)
  • Artem Vitalievich Vatrya (born 1994)
  • Bekhruz Bakhromovich Ganiev (born 1990)

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 Simon Cosgrove

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