Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
21.07.2017 | Halya Coynash

Crimean Tatar Ferat Saifullaev Imprisoned by Russia for Religious & Political Views

Ferat Saifullaev Photo Anton Naumlyuk

Ferat Saifullaev turns 34 on July 21, imprisoned in Russia, two and a half thousand kilometres from his wife and three children in Sevastopol, Crimea.  He is one of the ‘Sevastopol 4’, the first four Ukrainian Muslims to have been arrested in Russian-occupied Crimea for unproven involvement in the peaceful Hizb ut-Tahrir organization which is legal in Ukraine.  


Saifullaev, an economist by profession who was working as a builder, was arrested in April 2015.  Three colleagues -  Ruslan Zeytullaev; Rustem Vaitov and Nuri Primov had been arrested earlier, after armed searches, on January 23, 2015. 

There were gross irregularities even during the detention hearings, and the four men were prevented from all being represented, as they wished, by lawyer Emil Kurbedinov. There were overt attempts to intimidate people coming to the detention hearings to show solidarity, with a police officer even wandering around videoing those present.

The charges

Saifullaev, Vaitov and Primov were all charged with ‘taking part in a terrorist organization’ under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code, while Zeytullaev was accused of ‘organizing’ it (Article 205.5 § 1). 

The charges pertained solely to alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Evidence against Hizb ut-Tahrir

None.  The organization is legal in Ukraine and most western countries, and there is no evidence that its members have committed acts of terrorism or violence anywhere.  Russia declared it terrorist without providing any explanation, and now regularly sentences men to huge sentences merely on charges of being members.  All those convicted on such charges are recognized by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners.

Evidence against the four Sevastopol Muslims

The only ‘evidence’ against any of the men came from a video in which they discussed the political situation in Crimea, before and after it came under Russian control.  The discussion was deliberately provoked and illicitly videoed by an FSB informer.  

Aside from a former Ukrainian SBU officer with a known axe to grind against Zeytullaev and Saifullaev, almost all the other ‘prosecution witnesses’ retracted testimony they had allegedly given earlier, or denied having said what was asserted of them. Even the FSB’s ‘secret witness’, who spoke from another room with obvious prompting still gave confused and contradictory testimony.  

It should be stressed, as did Memorial HRC, when it recognized them as political prisoners long before the gravely flawed trial ended that Russia is already in breach of international law by conducting any trials under Russian law on occupied territory. 

The trial

In his final words to the court, Saifullaev said that he on trial, not for terrorism, but for his religious and political views.

Even the judges at the Rostov Military Court (in Russia) balked at providing the sentences demanded. Lacking the courage to acquit the men, they sentenced Saifullaev. Vaitov and Primov to the minimum 5 years possible under the article of the criminal code, and reclassified the charge against Zeytullaev to ‘involvement’.  The FSB required an ‘organizer’ and challenged the latter ruling, with a second court proving more compliant, though still sentencing Zeytullaev to 12 years, not the original 7 and not the 17 demanded by the prosecution.  The prosecutor has now challenged that ruling as well.


Saifullaev is currently in a punishment cell for six months, over a likely fabricated offence (a sim-card was found).  This deprives him and his family of any phone contact at all. 

In effective confirmation that Saifullaev is being persecuted for his faith, he is also being prevented from reading the Koran (details here). 


Please write to Ferat Saifullaev.  If it is difficult to write in Russian, even the message below, perhaps with a photo would still tell him and Russia that he is not forgotten.

612740 Kirov oblast, Omutninsk, Trudovykh Reservov St., 125, Prison No. 17

Saifullaev, Ferat Refatovych, born 1983

Birthday:       21 July

General letter

Добрый день,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.

[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.

С днем рождения!            Happy Birthday!

More details about the trial and all four men’s addresses can be found here

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