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:
- The religious affairs editor of the independent Dagestani newspaper Chernovik was detained 14 June 2019. He has been charged with an offence under Article 205.5, Section 2 (‘Participation in the activity of a terrorist organisation,’ punishable by up to 20 years in prison) and Article 205.1, Section 4, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Financing of terrorism’, punishable by life imprisonment).
- According to the investigators in the case, Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, after publishing material in Chernovik about the work of Ansar, a charitable foundation to assist children, encouraged readers to donate money to this organisation which had transferred money to Islamic State, a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation. The founder of the organisation, Abu Umar Sasitlinsky rejects these allegations.
Why Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Gadzhiev innocent:
- Ansar as an organisation existed in the years 2013-14. During that time Chernovik published one piece by Gadzhiev, dated 7 May 2013 (a 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 the latter talked about the setting up of the organisation and its work giving humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. The Investigative Committee has 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 record of his interrogation under torture. According to Tambiev, he had not in fact 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 took him on a scheduled flight from Moscow to Makhachkala, passengers on the plane photographed him with severe bruising to his face.
A politically motivated prosecution:
- The day of Gadzhiev’s arrest, Chernovik’s editors issued the following statement: ‘In the North Caucasus a charge of funding terrorism is the equivalent of the planting of drugs on Ivan Golunov in Moscow. If a person has to be jailed, and if he is even the slightest involved in religious activity, then a reason can always be found. Abdulmumin Gadzhiev was one of the longest-serving staff members at Chernovik. His articles always received a positive reaction from readers and were widely discussed. But Gadzhiev knew perfectly well that there were law enforcement officers who were always looking for any pretext to get hold of him and stop him writing.’
- The independent weekly newspaper Chernovik often publishes outspoken pieces critical of the authorities. In September 2009 flyers were distributed in Makhachkala containing threats against journalists, lawyers and civic activists. The 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 as laid 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.
You can read more about his case here.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.
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