The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Eduard Nizamov
The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Eduard Nizamov, who was accused of heading the Russian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, as a political prisoner.
Nizamov was accused of organizing activities of a terrorist organization (Part 1 of Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, maximum punishment – life imprisonment), financing of terrorism (Part 1 of Article 205.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, imprisonment of up to 15 years) and preparing a violent seizure of power and changing the constitutional order (Part 1 of Article 30, Article 278 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, imprisonment of up to 20 years). According to law enforcement officers, in 2013-2018 Nizamov led the Russian branch of the international religious and political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, which was declared terrorist in Russia. The investigation claims that Nizamov orchestrated the work of the movement and its financing, intending to build a theocratic Islamic state – the caliphate. These allegations are not supported by any real evidence. The persecution is primarily related with the formal terrorist status of Hizb ut-Tahrir and Nizamov’s membership in it. The Memorial Human Rights Center considers Nizamov a political prisoner, according to international guidelines for the definition of this concept, and requires his immediate release.
A businessman, a father of six children, Eduard Nizamov, was detained on October 10, 2018 in Kazan. In November 2019, the Central District Military Court in Yekaterinburg opened hearing of his criminal case.
The Memorial Human Rights Center examined charges against Nizamov and came to a conclusion that he was being persecuted for political reasons.
The Memorial Human Rights Center considers a declaration of Hizb ut-Tahrir being a terrorist organization unreasonable and illegal. In a decision of the Supreme Court in 2003 which banned a large group of Islamic organizations in Russia, Hizb ut-Tahrir was given one paragraph of three sentences. Those sentences did not contain any factual evidence of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s terrorist activities.
The “terrorist” status assigned to the organization by the Supreme Court, allows law enforcement to accuse any of the organization’s activity to be “terrorist”. Meetings, tea parties, and prayers are terrorist activities. Purchase of literature and donations to help arrested like-minded people – financing of terrorism. Street and network activity – preparing a violent seizure of power and changing the constitutional order.
Nizamov’s accusation of preparing for the seizure of power arose from a formal combination of ideological tenets of Hizb ut-Tahrir and documentation about rallies, tea parties, and theological disputes. According to the logic of the investigation, if the caliphate is an ideal of the state system for some Muslims, then any of their activities is a threat to the state. Nizamov, an alleged leader of the movement, is the main conspirator and rebel in the view of the investigators.
Since the decision to declare Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization, hundreds of Muslims have been prosecuted on charges of participation in it. Every year, courts sentenced them to increasingly long terms of imprisonment (up to 24 years in a maximum security colony). There are currently at least 298 people behind bars.
186 people were convicted, 56 of them received sentences of 10 to 15 years, 62 of them received sentences of 15 years or more.
Over 21 defendants are currently on trial.
At least 72 people are under investigation.
21 people were released after serving the appointed terms of imprisonment, 1 person was released without serving his sentence due to health conditions, and charges were dropped for 1 individual.
The Memorial Human Right Center recognized 169 persons involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir cases as political prisoners. The recognition as political prisoners for other defendants will be considered upon receiving documents on their cases.