The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Abdulmumin Gadzhiev
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has declared Abdulmumin Gadzhiev a political prisoner. We demand his immediate release.
The charges against Gadzhiev are:
- The editor of Religious Affairs at an independent Dagestani newspaper Chernovik was detained on 14 June 2019. He has been charged under Article 205.5, Section 2 (Participation in the activity of a terrorist organisation, punishment – up to 20 years in prison) and Article 205.1, Section 4, of the Russian Criminal Code (Financing of terrorism, punishment – life imprisonment).
- According to the investigators, after publishing an article in Chernovik about the work of Ansar, a charitable foundation to assist children, Abdulmumin Gadzhiev encouraged readers to donate money to this organisation which, the investigators said, had transferred money to Islamic State (a terrorist organisation banned in Russia). The founder of Ansar Abu Umar Sasitlinsky rejects these allegations.
Why Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Gadzhiev innocent:
- Ansar was an organisation operating during 2013-14. During that time Chernovik published one piece by Gadzhiev, dated May 7, 2013 (the time when the Islamic State had not yet been proclaimed, nor, consequently, banned in Russia) in which Ansar was mentioned. This was an interview with Abu Umar Sasitlinsky in which Abu Umar talked about founding the organisation and its work providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. The Investigative Committee did not provided any other ‘evidence’ of the journalist’s guilt.
- In 2016, Abdulmumin Gadzhiev wrote a deeply perceptive article for Chernovik in which he condemned the crimes of militant fighters who considered themselves part of Islamic State in Dagestan.
- According to the transcript of an interrogation of Kemal Tambiev, a Moscow resident, Tambiev learned from correspondence with another person that Gadzhiev, whom he apparently did not know, was a participant in Islamic State and raised funds for that organisation’s activities. Tambiev himself has stated that he signed the protocol of his interrogation under torture. According to Tambiev, he had not said anything about Gadzhiev during his interrogation. Kemal Tambiev appeared in court with a large bruise around his eye. Moreover, the day he was detained, as law enforcement officers were transporting him from Moscow to Makhachkala, passengers on the plane photographed him with severe bruising on his face.
A politically motivated prosecution:
- The day when Gadzhiev was arrested, Chernovik’s editors issued the following statement: ‘In the North Caucasus, a charge of funding terrorism is similar to planting drugs on Ivan Golunov in Moscow. If one wants to jail a person who is even slightly involved in religious activity, then a reason can be always found. Abdulmumin Gadzhiev is one of the longest-serving staff members at Chernovik. His articles have always received a positive reaction from readers, and been widely discussed. And Gadzhiev has known very well that there were certain law enforcement officers who always looked for reasons to get him and put him behind bars.’
- Chernovik, a weekly independent newspaper, often publishes outspoken pieces critical of the authorities. In September 2009, flyers containing threats against journalists, lawyers and civic activists were distributed in Makhachkala. Anonymous authors (reportedly, law enforcement officers) listed 16 names, including that of the founder of Chernovik, Khadzhimurad Kamalov. On 15 December 2011 Kamalov was shot dead. The crime remains unsolved.
‘The charges contain declarative and propagandistic passages about the “peace-making” role of Russia in Syria, the economic losses of major Russian companies in that region, and so on. The charges contain no evidence that Gadzhiev had any intention either of taking part in the activities of a terrorist organisation or of funding terrorism,’ Galina Tarasova, a lawyer with Memorial Human Rights Centre, said.