Publication date: 09.11.2021
By the term ‘political prisoner' we mean both those serving custodial sentences and those who have been remanded in custody or placed under house arrest before trial.
We include those prosecuted for exercising their legal rights as well as those who have been unlawfully, or manifestly disproportionately, prosecuted for political reasons by the authorities. We do not include those who have used violence against persons or have called for violence on grounds of religion, nationality, ethnicity, and so on. The full criteria for classification as a political prisoner can be found on our website.
There are 340 names on this list.
At present, these are predominantly Muslims, mostly charged with membership in the banned organisations Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami and Tablighi Jamaat, as well as Muslims accused of membership in the probably non-existent organisation At- Takfir wa al-Hijra. The Jehovah's Witnesses has been another major group of victims of religious persecution, whose organisations were unjustifiably declared extremist and banned in 2017.
Those recognised as political prisoners include 205 individuals prosecuted on charges of membership in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami and 104 prosecuted on charges of affiliation with communities of Jehovah's Witnesses.
This list is manifestly incomplete. It contains only those people and cases for which we have been able to collect and analyze sufficient information to draw a reasoned conclusion about the politically motivated and unlawful nature of the criminal prosecution. The list does not yet include the names of many individuals whose prosecution contains evidence of being unlawful and politically motivated, for the reason that we have either not yet received, or are still analyzing, the necessary information about these cases. The total number of people prosecuted in similar cases is at least three to four times higher than those contained in the list.
We can assume the motives behind the repressive measures against the Muslims on this list include the need for propaganda justifying the reality of the terrorist threat and demonstrating the fight against international terrorism; the suppression of independent associations, even though they do not present a real danger to the public (something practised not only against religious groups); and the corporate interests (in terms of crime statistics) of the relevant law enforcement agencies. In some cases, such as the prosecution in Bashkortostan of human rights defender Rustem Latypov and activist Linar Vakhitov, and in Crimea of human rights defenders Emir-Usein Kuku and Server Mustafayev, the motive, it can be assumed, is also to end the legitimate activities of the victims of prosecution.
The prosecution of residents of Crimea on charges of membership in Hizb ut- Tahrir, of which there are 68 cases in our list, should be highlighted because this organisation is legal in Ukraine and the prosecution of real and alleged members in Crimea is itself an additional tool of intimidation against the Crimean Tatar population and a means to suppress civic activity.
The tightening of legislation and law enforcement practice has resulted in a large number of cases in which charges related to Hizb ut-Tahrir are now prosecuted under Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Organisation of activities of a terrorist organisation and participation in the activities of such an organisation'), which provides for sentences up to life imprisonment, and simultaneously under Article 278 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Preparation for the violent seizure of power'), which provides for sentences of up to 10 years' imprisonment. The sentences handed down by the courts are also becoming longer. The prosecution of Muslims on charges of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir has been analyzed in detail in a 2018 report by Memorial's Programme for the Support of Political Prisoners.
The rapid growth in the number of political prisoners in this list continues, in part because of the mass repression of Jehovah's Witnesses. In the spring of 2018, searches and arrests began in various regions of the Russian Federation affecting dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses, many of whom subsequently became defendants in criminal cases and were remanded in custody. Thirty-five Jehovah's Witnesses are currently serving prison terms and a further 16 have already served their sentences.
This list also includes 15 Muslims convicted in 2016 on charges of preparing the bombing of the Kirghizia Cinema in Moscow and nine Muslims convicted in 2019 on charges of preparing an explosion in the St. Petersburg metro. We believe all these individuals were victims of unproven charges based on fabricated evidence because of their religious affiliation.