Russian court sentences two Ukrainian political prisoners in Hizb ut-Tahrir case to 11 years’ imprisonment

11 February 2022, 07:03 PM

The Russian Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don has sentenced two Ukrainian political prisoners: 64-year-old Crimean Tatar Zekirya Muratov was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months in a high-security prison, and Islamic studies expert Vadim Bektemirov – to 11 years.

This was reported by the Crimean Solidarity NGO on Facebook.

The two political prisoners were accused by Russia of belonging to the Islamic political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Russian considers to be a “terrorist” organization. 

Following Russia’s annexation and occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, Russian occupational authorities began to persecute the indigenous Crimean Tatar population based on their association with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Russian prosecutors have claimed that Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Crimea are seeking to “overthrow the Russian Federation” to create an “Islamic caliphate.” 

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The defense insisted that no evidence was ever found on Muratov that would indicate calls for an attempt to overthrow occupational authorities in Crimea and Russia, or activities related to the dissemination and studying of the ideology of terrorist organizations.

Also, no weapons, explosives, drugs, or draft plans were found on him that would prove an attempt at such intentions.

Muratov's lawyer, Emine Avamileva, stated in court that Muratov considers himself a political prisoner: “Our client is convinced that today he is being persecuted by the state for dissidence, for his social activism – he was a volunteer, attended court hearings on administrative and criminal cases against his compatriots; and in this connection insists that he shall be judged in accordance with the rules of international law.”

The defense also criticized audio recordings presented as evidence for the prosecution. The political prisoner’s lawyers said that the investigator on the case, in their opinion, committed gross violations of law by not allowing the defense access to said audio recordings, nor pose questions to an expert retained by the Russian state to analyze them.

According to Crimean Solidarity, Bektemirov’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, considers the evidence to have been falsified.

“Vadim said in his last statement that he was waiting for nothing but a guilty verdict, and from the first day of his arrest he knew and understood perfectly well how it would end. He did not plead guilty in those labels given to him. We proved that it was a provocation by the Federal Security Service (FSB), that all secret witnesses are FSB agents moving from case to case. The court was informed about all this, but the decision was made,” he said.

Crimean Tatar persecution

On July 7, 2020, seven people were detained during mass searches in Crimea. The Russian-controlled Kyiv District Court of Simferopol selected pre-trial detention as a preventive measure for the six detainees. Ismet Ibragimov, Zekirya Muratov, Vadim Bektemirov, Emil Ziyadinov, Alim Sufyanov, Seyran Khayredinov were arrested and placed at a detention center in Simferopol. 

All the detainees are accused of being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization.

On Oct. 29, 2021, Russia sentenced another four Crimean Tatars in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case to 12 to 17 years in a high-security prison.

Crimean Tatars in Ukraine have repeatedly spoken out about the political nature of these persecutions, noting that the Crimean Tatar community was opposed to Russian occupation of Crimea in the first place, and that they consider themselves to be Ukrainian, not Russian

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