10 March 2023
Azat Lukmanov has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on charges of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir
Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial
The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers Azat Lukmanov a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. He has been prosecuted for alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, which has been declared a terrorist group in Russia. Azat Lukmanov’s prosecution is 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 violent activity.
We demand that all criminal charges against Azat Lukmanov be dropped and that he be released from custody.
What is the case against Azat Lukmanov?
According to the court verdict, from August 2014 until the day of his detention on 19 November 2019, Lukmanov took part in Hizb ut-Tahrir activities in Ufa and in Moscow. He allegedly held ‘various leadership positions’ in the organisation and in these roles tried to persuade people who had left the organisation to return; he also stored and studied Islamic literature. The court deemed this to constitute involvement in terrorist activities.
On 21 December 2021, the Central District Military Court in Ekaterinburg sentenced Azat Lukmanov to 11 years’ imprisonment, the first four of which he is to spend in a cell-type prison and the remaining seven in a strict regime colony. On 30 May 2022, the Military Court of Appeal upheld the decision on appeal.
Why do we consider Azat Lukmanov a political prisoner?
Azat Lukmanov has not been accused of committing acts of terrorism or violence, nor of preparing or even inciting them, and consequently no evidence of committing such acts has been provided. The charges against him are based solely on the fact of his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.
It is our view that the designation of an organisation as terrorist is not in itself sufficient to criminalise any of the actions of its real or perceived supporters. We consider the decision of the Russian Supreme Court, which designated Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organisation in 2003, to be unfounded. The decision contains no evidence of the terrorist nature of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activities. We are not aware of any instances of terrorist acts being carried out or prepared by members of this group anywhere in the world.
At the same time, the Russian Supreme Court’s decision has simplified the procedure for investigating ‘terrorist’ cases involving Hizb ut-Tahrir. Investigators do not need to prove the commission or preparation of terrorist acts. Russian security forces have taken advantage of this fact to artificially increase the conviction rate for terrorism-related crime. The independent human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ knows of 337 cases of prosecution for belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir and 283 people involved in such cases have been recognized as political prisoners.
Furthermore, we do not consider Lukmanov’s membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir to be proven. As in many similar cases, the prosecution is entirely based on the testimony of witnesses who had previously participated in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Two of the witnesses were classified, so it is impossible to assess their reliability; four others allegedly left Hizb ut-Tahrir voluntarily; and four others were convicted of participation in the organisation. It is clear that all these witnesses are in one way or another dependent on the Russian law enforcement agencies.
Further information about this case and the position of the human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ is 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.
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Translated by Rights in Russia