The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Rakhmiddin Kamolov
In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Rakhmiddin Kamolov, a human rights activist and a Uzbekistan national serving a 16-year prison term in Russia, as a political prisoner. We believe that Kamolov was persecuted for political reasons in connection with a non-violent exercise of his rights such as freedom of conscience, religion, speech and association. Also, his right to a fair trial was violated. The purpose of the persecution was to force Kamolov to halt his public activities. Memorial Human Rights Center urges for the immediate release of Rakhmiddin Kamolov.
A citizen of Uzbekistan, Rakhmiddin Kamolov lived in Moscow since 2010. He was engaged in human rights activities in an organization of assistance to refugees from Central Asia “Yordam” (“Help”.) Also, he was an assistant to the president of the Society of Political Emigrants of Central Asia, a well-known Uzbek dissident and human rights activist Bahrom Khamroev.
In 2015, a criminal case was opened against Kamolov in Uzbekistan, accusing him of being a member of a Moscow chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the organization labeled as “religious extremist” in Uzbekistan. According to the Uzbek security officials, the main goal of the organization is to illegally overthrow the authorities of the country. Kamolov was put on the international wanted list. Rakhmiddin Kamolov asked for asylum in Russia, but his asylum application was denied. In August 2016 he was arrested by Russian authorities for extradition which did not take place amid a pressure from human rights defenders.
What was Rakhmiddin Kamolov accused of in Russia?
In March 2017, FSB opened a criminal case against Kamolov under Part 1 of Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on charges of organizing the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Moscow. In 2003 the international Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir was recognized as a terrorist organization by decision of the Supreme Court of Russia. According to the investigation, Rakhmiddin Kamolov participated in two meetings with members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and organized another meeting with two Muslims.
In December 2017, the Moscow District Military Court sentenced Kamolov to 16 years in a maximum-security prison.
Why does Memorial Human Rights Center consider Kamolov a political prisoner?
Kamolov’s accusations were only based on a fact that he was (according to the prosecution, he denies that) a member of a public association. He was not charged with violence, preparing terrorist attacks or voicing terrorist threats.
Memorial Human Rights Center considers it illegal to declare Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization. In the decision of the Supreme Court adopted at a closed meeting without the participation of representatives of the association, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s case was described in one paragraph of three sentences. They do not contain any evidence of terrorist activities.
It is the status assigned to the organization that allows recognizing any activities of the organization as “terrorist” – meetings, tea parties, discussions, etc.
It’s important to remind that Article 28 of the Constitution of Russia protects religious rights. It guarantees everyone “freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or jointly with others any religion or not to profess any, freely choose, have and spread religious and other beliefs and act in accordance with them.”
An even more flagrant violation of law and morality is that the cause of the Kamolov’s persecution was his human rights work.
Instead of granting political asylum to a citizen of a neighboring authoritarian country, the Russian authorities not only denied Rakhmiddin his request, but they themselves brought a criminal case against him. The convenient and familiar accusation of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir became an instrument of solidarity between the special services of the authoritarian regimes of Russia and Uzbekistan in the fight against their political opponents.