Ziyavdin Dapaev and the brothers Sukhrab and Artur Kaltuev have been sentenced to terms in prison for taking part in group readings of works by the Turkish theologian Said Nursi.
The Kaltuev brothers were sentenced to three years in a general-regime prison colony, while Dapaev was sentenced to four years in a general-regime prison colony. All the defendants were convicted under Article 282.2 (Section 1) of the Russian Criminal Code («organizing the activities of a banned organization»).
This is one of a series of criminal prosecutions brought by Russian law enforcement agencies against the mythical organization «Nurdzhular." The Russian authorities have consistently persecuted Muslims who study and distribute the books from the Risale-i Nur (Treatises of Light) cycle by the Turkish theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877 — 1960). In 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the international religious association «Nurdzhular," of which the followers of Nursi are allegedly members, was extremist. Law enforcement agencies consistently describe Nurdzhular as a «clearly structured» organization disseminating Islamic and Turkish political influence in the world.
However, in reality, all that exists is an non-political community of people who consider themselves followers of the teachings expressed in Risale-i Nur, communicate with one another, and hold joint reading sessions. No evidence of the existence of a structured organization, managed from Turkey, has yet been presented. We consider this notion to be an invention by Russian official bodies.
So far as the books themselves are concerned, in 2007 14 translations of works by Nursi were banned by decision of the Koptevsky district court in Moscow. We consider this ban, along with the subsequent banning of Nurdzhular, to be groundless. A series of arguments put forward in the expert opinion on which the court based its decision, were absurd. For example, the expert opinion argued that the religious literature contained condemnation of sinners (and even self-condemnation by penitents) and intimidation of atheists by threatening punishment after death, and on these grounds concluded that the texts are extremist and propagate religious discord.
However, the works of Nursi contain no incitement to violence or terrorism; they are free of hate speech. The Council of Muftis of Russia, the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia and the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis have all stated that the works of Nursi present no threat to the security of society and do not contain propaganda of violence, while the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the ban to be reconsidered.
In essence, Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers have been charged solely with participation in religious meetings, conversations with other Muslims, and possessing and distributing the books of Nursi. Therefore, we believe, they have been deprived of liberty while there is no evidence of any crime having been committed. Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers have been deprived of their liberty exclusively on the grounds of their religious beliefs, and in association with the non-violent exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression of opinion and information, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Ziyavdin Dapaev, Sukhrab Kaltuev and Artur Kaltuev are political prisoners and must be immediately released, and the banning of religious literature that does not incite violence must be ended.
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.
More information about the cases of Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers can be read here.
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