Four residents of Crimea, charged with involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, are political prisoners
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers Seitumer Shukrievich Seitumerov, Osman Seitumerov and Amet Suleimanov to be political prisoners and Seitumer Velievich Seitumerov to be a victim of a wrongful, politically motivated prosecution. We believe that they have been remanded in custody for the non-violent exercise of their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of association.
Memorial calls for all the charges against the defendants to be dropped immediately and for those unjustifiably held in custody to be released.
Who are the four and what are the charges against them?
The four Crimean Tatars were arrested on 11 March 2020 in their homes in the Bakhchisaray district of Crimea. A fifth — S. V. Seitumerov — was not detained because he lives in Kiev.
According to the FSB, S. Sh. Seitumerov and S. V. Seitumerov set up a cell of the international organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party of Islamic Liberation, banned as terrorist in Russia) in Bakhchisaray and involved local Muslims in its work, namely Osman Seitumerov, Rustem Seitmemetov and Amet Suleimanov. The organisers of the cell allegedly conducted conspiratorial studies of the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir and thereafter promoted these ideas among their fellow countrymen. The men have been charged with offences under Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code (organisation of the activities of a terrorist organisation and participation in it).
The FSB also discovered that the Bakhchisaray residents desired in the future to ‘create an ideal Muslim state (the global Islamic Caliphate)’ and in addition charged them with ‘preparation for the forcible seizure of power by an organised group’ (Article 30, Part 1, in conjunction with Article 278, of the Russian Criminal Code).
In January 2021 the trial began of the four defendants held in custody at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. S. V. Seitumerov’s case was separated out from that of the others and not submitted to the court on account of his wanted status.
Why does Memorial consider the prosecutions politically motivated?
The investigators consider the Muslims who are being prosecuted guilty only because they are members of a public religious association. The defendants were not charged with preparing terrorist attacks or making terrorist threats.
Memorial considers the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation to be unlawful. The 2003 Supreme Court decision contains no evidence of terrorist activities by the organisation.
In the years since Hizb ut-Tahrir was declared a terrorist organisation in the Russian Federation, hundreds of Muslims have been prosecuted on criminal charges related to involvement in the organisation. With each year, the courts sentence believers to ever longer terms of imprisonment (up to 24 years in a strict regime penal colony). More than 300 people are currently being prosecuted on charges of involvement in the religious organisation.
The unfairness and unlawfulness of the prosecution of Muslims charged with involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea today is exacerbated by the fact that under Ukrainian law the organisation is legal.
Most of the accused had taken part in supporting Crimean Tatars who were political prisoners and their families within the framework of the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement. The accusation of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir has become a means to suppress the public solidarity of Crimean residents.
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.
More information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre are available on our website.
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