‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Yashar Shikhametov is a political prisoner

27 January 2023

Yashar Shikhametov, a resident of Crimea, has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ a human rights project, considers Crimean Solidarity activist Yashar Shikhametov a political prisoner on the basis of international standards. He has been convicted on account of alleged involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami party, which is banned in Russia. Shikhametov’s prosecution has been in gross violation of his rights to freedom of religion and freedom of association. He has been deprived of liberty in the absence of any evidence of a crime in his actions. Shikhametov’s prosecution is one of a series of criminal cases aimed at suppressing civic activity among Crimean Tatars in annexed Crimea.

We demand the immediate release of Yashar Shikhametov and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

Who is Shikhametov and what are the charges against him?

Yashar Shikhametov, 52, is a Crimean Tatar from the outskirts of Sevastopol and an activist with Crimean Solidarity. He has attended court hearings and given assistance to the families of Crimean political prisoners.

On 17 February 2021, security forces conducted searches of homes of a number of Muslims in Crimea. Six people, including Yashar Shikhametov, were detained and subsequently remanded in custody for the offence of ‘participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation’ (Article 205.5, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) on grounds of alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, designated a terrorist organisation in Russia.

In essence, all the charges against Yashar Shikhametov amount to evidence of his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. The indictment includes evidence from witnesses who claim he had conversations with Muslim visitors to his cafe about the need to create an Islamic caliphate and urged his interlocutors to do everything possible to restore the Islamic way of life. The materials of the case refer to audio recordings in which Shikhametov allegedly advocates the creation of a caliphate and condemns non-Muslims and the way of life not appropriate for Muslims.

On 9 September 2022, the Southern District Military Court sentenced Yashar Shikhametov to 11 years’ imprisonment, four years of which are to be spent in a prison and the rest in a strict regime penal colony.

Why do we consider Shikhametov a political prisoner?

In Shikhametov’s case the Investigative Committee did not provide the court with evidence of terrorist activities, preparation of terrorist acts, possession of ammunition or even incitement to violence. The entire accusation is based only on the fact that he participated in Hizb ut-Tahrir by talking with those who shared his views.

We consider the decision of the Russian Supreme Court designating Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organisation to be unfounded. The ruling contains no evidence of the terrorist nature of this organisation’s activities. We are not aware of a single instance of Hizb ut-Tahrir members committing, or preparing to commit, acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.

At the same time, the Supreme Court’s decision resulted in the simplification of the procedure for investigating ‘terrorist’ cases involving Hizb ut-Tahrir. Following the decision, there was no need to prove the commission or preparation of a terrorist act. Russian security officials have taken advantage of this by artificially inflating the statistics on the clearing up of terrorist crimes. 

In annexed Crimea, the prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir members also serves the purpose of suppressing the Crimean Tatars, a group historically not known for their loyalty to the Russian authorities. In 2014 Crimean Tatars in general reacted negatively to the annexation of the peninsula by Russia and they have been persecuted ever since. In Ukraine, Hizb ut-Tahrir functions as a legally-permitted organisation.

Yashar Shikhametov has worked to support Crimean Tatars prosecuted by the Russian authorities. Probably, his prosecution for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir is also meant to suppress expressions of public solidarity and civic activity among the residents of Crimea.

Further information about the case of Yashar Shikhametov and the position of the human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ are available on our website.

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

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

How can you help?

Letters can be sent to Yashar Shikhamteov at the following address:

In Russian: 346408, Ростовская область, г. Новочеркасск, ул. Украинская, д. 1, ФКУ СИЗО-3 ГУФСИН России по Ростовской области, Шихаметову Яшару Рустемовичу, 1970 г.р.

In English:  Yashar Rustemovich Shikhametov, born 1970, Remand Prison No. 3, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Rostov region,  1 Ukrainskaya Street, Novocherkassk, Rostov region, 346408, Russia. 

You can also send electronic mail to Crimean political prisoners 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. For more information about donating, see our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

Leave a Reply