The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Airat Dilmukhametov
Despite of the obvious political motivation of the criminal charges against Airat, on August 24, 2020, the Central District Military Court sentenced Airat Dilmukhametov to 9 years in a strict regime colony. He was found guilty on four counts: public calls for separatism, public justification of terrorism, public calls for extremism and its financing.
The court sentenced him to three years in prison for each episode of public calls for separatism (Part 2 of Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), to five years – in the case of financing extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), to two years – in the case of public calls for extremism (Part 1 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and to six years in prison – in the case of public calls to terrorism (Part 2 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
The court also banned Dilmukhametov from administering websites for three years.
The Memorial Human Rights Center, in accordance with international guidelines for defining “political prisoner,” recognized Airat Dilmukhametov as a political prisoner due to a fact that imprisonment was applied solely because of his political beliefs in connection with the non-violent exercise of freedom of expression in violation of the right to a fair trial, other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the absence of corpus delicti. The deprivation of liberty is clearly inadequate to the actions of which Dilmukhametov is accused of.
Opposition writer and journalist, and a participant in the Bashkir national movement, Airat Dilmukhametov, has been charged with committing a crime under Part 2, Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Public incitement to commit actions intended to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation,’that carries a maximum sentence of up to five years’ deprivation of liberty). Dilmukhametov has been held on remand on this new charge since March 14, 2019.
Dilmukhametov stands accused of having posted a video on YouTube in April 2018 entitled ‘APPEAL by Airat Dilmukhametov, a candidate for the presidency of Bashkortostan, to the Fifth Forum of Free Russia.’ The video, according to investigators, ‘contains linguistic evidence of incitement, including sloganising, to actions intended to create a different federation by means of leaving Russia and creating a new state with new laws and regulations that would satisfy a newly created government of the Republic of Bashkortostan.’
We consider Airat Dilmukhametov a political prisoner for two reasons. First,Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Codehas, in our opinion, no right to exist as a matter of law. We concur with the view of the Sova Centre, according to which a state should criminalise only such aspects of separatism as are linked with violence, or with the propaganda of acts of violence, conducted with the intention of separating one or other region from the Russian Federation, and not theoretical speculations about the permissibility of their separation.
Second, having examined the video on which the accusations against Dilmukhametov are based, we conclude that there is no evidence of incitement to violence, of stirring up ethnic or religious hatred, or of any crime whatsoever. The video cannot even be called separatist, in the strict sense of the word. Dilmukhametov maintains he is innocent of the charges of separatism and asserts that ‘in my numerous speeches, articles and interviews I always stressed that the Republic of Bashkortostan will not leave Russia: the Republic will propose a new treaty-based model of federation, created from below.’
Given the circumstances of the criminal case brought against Airat Dilmukhametov, the conclusion can be drawn that the prosecution has been politically motivated and is directly related to Dilmukhametov’s civic and political activities. Dilmukhametov has been a consistent critic of the political leadership of both the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation. He has actively promoted the ideas of Bashkir nationalism in his articles on popular Bashkir websites, at the same time holding firmly to opposition views and speaking out in favour of collaboration with those in the political opposition who had different views and came from different ethnic and religious background. Dilmukhametov has been repeatedly prosecuted for his statements and, in the preceding criminal case, was recognised as a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Right Center.