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30.10.2009 | Yelena Ryabinina

On the eve of Political Prisoner Day hefty sentences passed in Russia for “Islamic extremism”

   

On 29 October 2009 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan (part of the Russian Federation) passed sentence in the case where the 12 defendants were charged with involvement in the banned organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The hearings had lasted 8 months.

7 people (S. Akhmedov, U. Dzhurayev, F. Faizulin, A. Khasanov, D. Rafikov, R. Zarilov, and I. Zyapilov) were sentenced to periods of from 4 to 8 years in a harsh regime penal colony, four (R. Gimranov, T. Nurmurkhametov, A, Sabirov, and R. Sabitov) received suspended sentences and one person, who had previously been found unfit to stand trial, was sent for mandatory treatment.

The prosecution was initiated by the FSB [Federal Security Service] for Tatarstan 3 years ago. On 7 December 2006 in Kazan searches were carried out with literature removed, including some pertaining to the banned organization, and 9 people were arrested. Later three of them were released from custody but had to sign an undertaking not to abscond. Then in May 2007 three others, previously considered witnesses in the case, were remanded in custody.

The key feature distinguishing this case is that for the first time in Russia people accused of involvement in Hizb-ut-Tahrir were charged with preparing for a violent seizure of power. At the same time, the material evidence did not include any items inevitably linked with preparing for violent crimes – no weapons, ammunition, explosives, etc, were found on the suspects and accused.

The logic of the deputy head of the investigation department of the Tatarstan FSB, K. Trofimenko, boils down to this: if the ideology of the organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir regards any form of State structure besides the Califate as sinful, that this is sufficient to accuse those who espouse such ideas of planning violent change of society. As evidence that they were planning a coup d’etat, the investigators presented the court with only literature, leaflets and expert opinions, carried out at the instruction of the investigators, as well as testimony in the main provided by law enforcement officers and secret witnesses”. Furthermore, one of these witnesses in the middle of the trial appeared in court and demanded to be questioned again, but this time openly and under his own name. He told of pressure which had been brought to bear on him by the investigators, coercing him into providing the evidence to substantiate their version.

As for the expert opinions, the research carried out by independent specialists on the conclusions of the expert - psychologist and presented in court (yet not attached by the panel of judges to the material of the case) showed that these conclusions did not meet any of the criteria for scientifically justified findings.

And yet the panel of judges of the Supreme Court of Tatarstan, with P. Kondratyev as presiding judge,  deemed that all of this was sufficient to find the defendants guilty of preparing a violent seizure of power and drawing other people into the committing of such a grave crime.

According to information presently available, most of the convicted men plan to appeal against the sentence through cassation procedure in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

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