Fabrication of “Islamic extremism” criminal cases
April 15, 2007
The end of 2006 saw the criminal prosecution campaign against Muslims suspected of “Islamic radicalism” enter a notably more active stage.
December 2006 and March 2007, six such criminal cases were launched against
more than 20 citizens in the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and
Chuvashia, and the
the Memorial Human Rights Center and the Civic Assistance Committee has
monitoring criminal cases linked to “Islamic extremism” in Central Russia, the
Volga region, the Urals and
Most of these criminal cases are directly linked to the closed-hearing decision reached by Russia’s Supreme Court on February 14, 2003 that banned 15 Russian organizations it identified as terrorist (two more organization were added to the list in 2006). This ban includes both notorious terrorist organizations as well as those with no links to terrorism, the most widespread of these being the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir.
An official publication of the banned party list only appeared in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta government newspaper in July 2006. The Supreme Court decision itself never has been made public.
Russian legal experts believe that it was adopted in serious violation of
existing legal regulations, and that its implementation has led to the illegal
infringement of fundamental public freedoms that are guaranteed by
In several cases, the Supreme Court decision uses vague phrases of a general nature as grounds for charging groups with terrorism – such as “militant Islamic propaganda,” “intolerance for other religions,” “active recruitment of supporters,” and others.
have been convicted of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir in
The convicts’ activities – which consist of propagating the utopian ideas of creating a global Islamic state, or Caliphate; the study and dissemination of corresponding literature; and organizational activity linked to their cause – were not only qualified under chapter 282-2 of Russia’s Criminal Code (participation in an extremist organization banned by a decision of the court), but also equated to commitment of grave and especially grave crimes – involvement in terrorist activity (ch. 205-1) and the creation of a criminal community (ch. 210). Punishment for these crimes carries sentences of between eight and 15 years imprisonment.
Such an approach, as well as the use of the wording “keeping of banned literature” (despite the fact that such an notion is absent from Russian law), has been repeatedly criticized by human rights organizations. Although the idea of creating a pan-Islamic state propagated by Hizb ut-Tahrir is incompatible with democratic ideals, in our opinion it may not be grounds for criminal prosecution of its followers.
In July 2006, the wording of chapter 205-1 of the Criminal Code was altered, allowing chapters 205-1 and 210 to be excluded from the case against Hizb ut-Tahrir. Several of the previous sentences were also reexamined.
Still, in December 2006, nine people who were found holding the organization’s literature during police searches, were accused of “aiding terrorist activity” (ch. 205-1, according to the new edition) as well as of plotting the violent seizure of power (ch. 278). The latter chapter carries prison sentences of 12 to 20 years. In our opinion, these charges are fabrications.
None of these people took part in activities of a terrorist nature. Neither did they take part in their preparation or aid their commitment in any way. It is difficult to view these criminal cases as anything other than the prosecution of citizens for their political and religious beliefs.
Previous reviews have mentioned the case of Eduard Khusainov from the city of Nizhnevartovsk, who was accused of following Hizb ut-Tahrir and later convicted – this, only after he had written an open letter to the chairman of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General’s office voicing his disagreement with the party’s ban and asking to see the text of the Supreme Court decision so that he could appeal it. He gave a copy of his letter for review to local and federal government representatives in his city, as well as to a local television reporter.
Ashirov, Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in Asian Russia chief whose verdict
on the Hizb ut-Tahrir brochures failed to agree with the official one, received
a warning from the
The Memorial International Association received a similar warning after it published Ashirov’s ruling on its Internet site – this was viewed as a violation of the federal law “On countermeasures against terrorist activity.” The prosecutor’s office demanded that the corresponding page be deleted from the Memorial site.
Both warnings were appealed in court. The courts dismissed both the first and the appellate court appeals, with preparations now underway to take these cases to the European Court of Human Rights. March 2007 also saw the denial of Memorial’s motion to restore the appeal period against the Supreme Court decision banning the 15 organizations, a ban that provided legal grounds for the two prosecutor’s office warnings.
for persecuting Muslims in
reviews have provided the classic Russian example of fabricated “Wahhabism” –
the case of Mansur Shangareyev (
saw the arrest in
The case of a
natural gas pipeline explosion in Bugulma, for which Fanis Shaikhutdinov and
2007, the Supreme Court of Tatarstan opened hearings into the case of the
so-called “Islamic Jamaat” – an organization in which 17 people are accused of
being member. They are charged with
creating an illegal armed “Wahhabite” formation whose goal was to carry out a
series of terrorist attacks against Tatarstan’s largest industrial sites during
celebrations marking the 1,000-year anniversary of
The use of
torture also appears in investigations of Hizb ut-Tahrir cases. Thus, five of the six suspects in a 2007 case
heard in the city of
One of the key witnesses in this case, Bakhodir Shukurov, who had been also previously accused of “Islamic extremism,” was subjected to torture for two months while being held as a witness to the case. Because of this, he filed a statement to the prosecutor’s office asking that his testimony incriminating the accused not be used, even if his testimony was delivered in the presence of an attorney. After being released and learning that the prison administration failed to deliver his request to the prosecutor’s office, Shukurov made it available to a human rights organization. Shortly before this case went to court, Shukurov was again arrested and soon convicted on new charges. Based on evidence of other inmates, he was subjected to injections after which he returned to his cell in an inadequate state. Eventually he was placed in a holding cell for people suffering from mental illnesses. In the end, he was not included among the witnesses due to appear in court for the case. There is reason to believe that authorities thus tried to prevent Shukurov from testifying in court about the inadmissibility of the evidence collected against the accused.
Gabdrakhmanov, who in May 2005 testified in defense of Hizb ut-Tahrir case
suspects appearing before the Supreme Court of Tatarstan while also helping
their families, was then arrested under suspicion of plotting a terrorist act
because explosive devices had been found in his car. The criminal case against Gabdrakhmanov was
dropped in December 2005, when he won rehabilitation. It was thus practically confirmed that the
explosive devices had been planted. He
was arrested again in August 2006 for allegedly disseminating Hizb ut-Tahrir
leaflets in the city of
Some reports bare witness to attempts by authorities to put pressure on suspects who are trying to defend their rights amid the ongoing anti-Muslim campaign. Thus people who have filed appeals to the European Court of Human Rights are subjected to pressure from the administrations of penitentiary institutions – their detention regime is being made more strict, they are being placed in punishment cells for extended periods of time under false accusations, and in some cases kept from observing their religious beliefs. There have been statements made by the accused about them being beaten while transferred to prisons in which they are to serve their sentences, about them being denied requests for medical assistance, and also about cases of inmates transferred to special colonies for those who suffer from infectious diseases without sufficient medical proof.
In several regions, judges hearing “Islamic extremism” cases try to illegally bar observers from attending the hearings. There has been one instances of a judge ruling that a case had to be closed to the public under the pretext that the hearing hall was not equipped to handle people. Moreover, after this ruling was overturned by an appeals court, the judge still tried to bar a representative of a civic organization from appearing in court, citing the same reason.
Concerns grow from Russian security authorities’ efforts to expand the list of banned Islamic currents of thought and organizations. For more than half a year, one Moscow district court has been holing closed hearings on a case filed by the prosecutor’s office of Tatarstan demanding the writings of the Turkish Muslim thinker Said Nursi be recognized as extremist. The Russian Prosecutor General’s office supported this motion. Conclusions from experts submitted by the prosecution present several far-fetched arguments, to the point of drawing tendentious interpretations of metaphysical images. For example, they see militant Islamic ideas being propagated by the words “an army of various types of animals and plants.” In appointing a new expertise hearing to the case, the court denied an attempt by defense attorneys to name an Islamic studies scientist into the experts’ panel.
At the same
time, pressure is being applied to the followers of Said Nursi. Thus, they have been repeatedly called in for
questioning in the
Cooperation between Russian and Uzbek special security services, which are redoubling efforts to detain and extradite people who fled Uzbekistan from political and religious persecution, continues to frequently break legal boundaries and contradict Russia’s international obligations on human rights.
The case of
Uzbek citizen Rustam Muminov, accused of “Islamic radicalism” by Uzbek
authorities, gained notable international attention. He was freed from detention in the city of
inquiry was launched into Muminov’s illegal expulsion from
International organizations’ severe criticism of Muminov’s illegal expulsion probably assisted in the denials of extradition requests for two other Uzbek citizens who were wanted at home on fabricated Islamic extremism charges, and whose cases were taken up by human rights organizations.
ethnic Uzbeks detained in
Another UNHCR mandated refugee, Bairamal Yusupov, is facing a similar problem. Uzbek authorities are also trying to extradite him for “extremism.”
In both the
Yusupov and the Ivanov cases, there are clear differences between those
doubtful “crimes” for which the accused are wanted in
January and March 2007, at least two other Uzbek citizens have been detained in
There are serious concerns about the increasingly common practice of replacing the legally accepted practice of processing extradition request in such cases, with the quicker and less complicated deportation procedures or administrative expulsions. These are executed on illegal orders with direct involvement of the FSB.
2006, an FSB representative reported that 19 suspected members of Hizb
ut-Tahrir were handed over to
actions of Russian special service agents against “Islamic extremism” suspects
are not meeting a proper legal response from the Prosecutor General’s
office. There is also no progress in the
official investigation into the circumstances of the 2005 forced transfer to
Uzbekistan of Alisher Usmanov, an instructor at a
Also growing widespread is the practice of annulling Central Asian’s adopted Russian citizenships in order to eliminate legal obstacles to their handover in extradition cases.
One of the
documents in the appendix to this report contains a direct request from an
Uzbek Interior Ministry official addressed to a regional Russian prosecutor’s
office asking for assistance in stripping the Uzbek’s Russian citizenship and
deporting the wanted person to
Within the context of the above-listed tendencies, concerns are raised by the creation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization of a single “list of internationally wanted suspects sought for crimes of terrorist, separatist and extremist nature.”
Over the past
half-year, official reports about people detained in
collected while monitoring fabricated “Islamic terrorism” criminal cases allows
us to assert that
basis for this campaign is the unjustifiably broad interpretation of the term
“extremism” in Russian law. The fact
that existing anti-extremist and anti-terrorist legislation undermines
lawfulness and the defense of human rights was noted by an expert commission of
distinguished legal experts on terrorism, counter-terrorism and human rights
that held open hearings in
Other serious problems include the wide use of torture, the absence of effective controls over the special services, shortcomings of the court system and expertise institutions, and others.
Denials of asylum requests from CIS state citizens who were forced to leave their homelands due to political and religious prosecution are almost absolute in nature.
agreements regulating the extradition procedure between CIS states – first of
all, the Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family
and Criminal Matters (the so-called Minsk Convention) – do not meet
At the same time, one cannot avoid noting that in cases when in the international community clearly and unequivocally spoke out about Russia’s violations of international legal standards and obligations in extradition cases, positive results were achieved – as, for example, in the above-mentioned case of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks.”
that European Union member states devote constant attention to the human rights
violation committed by
3. Reexamining the groundless February 14, 2003 Russian Supreme Court decision to ban a number of organizations, which was reached in closed hearings, and as a consequence reviewing the convictions handed down in criminal cases based on that ruling.
independent experts for analysis of the conformity of Russian court decisions
on “Islamic extremism” to
5. Observance of a ban foreseen by international standards, including the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons, on the forced return of people seeking asylum to their home countries, especially those that systematically use torture.
6. Reexamining the practice of a nearly absolute refusal to provide protection to citizens from CIS states that seek asylum on political and religious grounds.
7. Introducing legislative changes aimed at introducing a legal process for reaching verdicts on extradition cases.
 We will not be examining the unique situation that has developed in