Two Muslims from Tatarstan, convicted of participation in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, are political prisoners, Memorial says

01.09.2020

Shamil Galimov and Ilmir Motygullin were sentenced to 17 and 13 years, respectively, in a strict regime penal colony, although there is no evidence they were preparing acts of violence, or called for the commission of such acts.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Shamil Galimov and Ilmir Motygullin, both Muslims from Tatarstan, political prisoners and demands their immediate release. We call on the Russian authorities to end the prosecution of real and supposed supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami on the basis of anti-terrorism articles of the Russian Criminal Code.

  •  What are the charges against Galimov and Motygullin?

Shamil Galimov and Ilmir Motygullin were detained on 24 October 2018 on charges of involvement in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic party banned in Russia. Galimov was charged with organisation and leadership of a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in the Aznakayevsky district of Tatarstan from June 2016 until October 2018 (Part 1 of Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code). Motygullin was charged with participation in the activities of this cell (Part 2 of Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code). In addition, both were charged with financing the activities of a terrorist organisation (Part 1.1. of Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code). According to investigators, the two men spent 10,000 roubles on publishing party literature and helping Muslims convicted of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. On 14 February 2020 Galimov and Motygullin were found guilty and sentenced to 17 and 13 years in a strict regime penal colony, respectively.

  •  Why does Memorial consider them political prisoners?

The two Muslims were found guilty only because they were members of a civil society association. Moreover, Motygullin denied any involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir whatsoever and claimed the party literature had been planted on him. Neither of the two were accused of preparing terrorist attacks or making threats of terrorism. There is no evidence in the case to suggest the defendants were preparing acts of violence or were calling for the commission of such acts.

The charges were based on the testimony of a classified witness, whose testimony, moreover, relates to the routine activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and audio recordings of three of its ordinary meetings.

Memorial considers the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation unlawful and unfounded. The 2003 ruling of the Russian Supreme Court 2003 banning the activities of a large group of Islamic organisations had just one paragraph of three sentences concerning Hizb ut-Tahrir. These sentences contain no evidence of terrorist activities.

It is precisely this designation that permits any of the organisation’s activities to be recognised as ‘terrorist.’  Gatherings, meetings or storage of the organisation’s literature all become terrorist activity. We point out that Article 28 of the Russian Constitution protects these actions of believers. Article 28 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 religion, to freely choose, have and disseminate religious and other beliefs and act in accordance with them.’

In the years since the Supreme Court ruling to recognise Hizb-ut-Tahrir as terrorist, hundreds of Muslims have been prosecuted on charges related to their participation in the organisation. At present, at least 315 people are being prosecuted for involvement in the organisation.

Civil society oversight of these kinds of prosecutions is minimal. Such prosecutions enable the security services to artificially raise their performance indicators many times over (demonstrating their own usefulness), manipulating the notion of the terrorist threat by substituting an imitation of anti-terrorism activities for the real thing. It requires little effort on the part of law enforcement agencies to meet the requirements of their performance indicators by prosecuting large numbers of such cases. At the same time, in recent years, it is precisely the issue of terrorism that has been used to justify the adoption of laws restricting constitutional rights. In this way, the powers of those in authority have been consolidated and expanded.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Shamil Galimov and Ilmir Motygullin political prisoners. We believe they have been deprived of their liberty in order to strengthen and preserve the powers of political authorities in the absence of any evidence of a crime, in violation of the right to fair trial and freedom of conscience.

A more detailed description of this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre can be found on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

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