Three residents of Crimea, accused of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, are political prisoners
The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international criteria, considers the Crimean Muslims Aleksandr Sizikov, Alim Sufyanov and Seiran Khairedinov political prisoners. They are being prosecuted on charges of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir for the non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of religion and association.
What are the charges against them?
On 7 July 2020, after a series of searches of the homes of Crimean Tatar activists in various regions of Crimea, FSB officers arrested seven Muslims on suspicion of involvement in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. Among them were Aleksandr Sizikov, Alim Sufyanov, and Seiran Khairedinov.
The same day, Simferopol’s Kiev district court placed Sizikov, who has a serious visual impairment, under house arrest. On 9 July the court remanded Sufyanov and Khairedinov in custody.
According to the investigators, a cell of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a party banned in Russia, was operating in the Bakhchisaray district of Crimea. Sizikov, who has a serious visual impairment, was allegedly the organizer of this cell, while Sufyanov and Khairedinov were members. They have all been charged with organizing and participating in the activities of a terrorist organization (Article 205.5, Part 1 & Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and making preparations for the armed seizure of power (Article 30, Part 1, in conjunction with Article 278 of the Russian Criminal Code).
Why do we consider the three to be political prisoners?
According to the materials of the investigation provided to the courts, Sizikov, Sufyanov, and Khairedinov were allegedly participants in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a party banned in Russia. There is no evidence that the Crimean residents did in fact prepare acts of terrorism, voiced terrorist threats or made preparations for a coup d’état. Moreover, the investigation did not even try to prove anything of the kind.
Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers, as previously did Memorial Human Rights Centre, the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami as a terrorist organization unlawful and unfounded. Despite the fact that the 2003 ruling by the Russian Supreme Court contained no evidence of terrorist activities by Hizb ut-Tahrir, hundreds of Muslims have faced criminal prosecution for involvement in this organization in recent years. Each year the courts have imposed ever more severe punishments on believers.
It should be noted that the evidence that Sizikov, Sufyanov, and Khairedinov are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir consists primarily of the testimony of secret witnesses using pseudonyms. The use of testimony by secret witnesses as key evidence in prosecutions has become standard practice by the FSB in such cases. We believe this practice is harmful because it makes it far easier to fabricate evidence and limits the rights of the accused.
In Crimea, following annexation, the prosecution of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been a tool to suppress both civic solidarity and civic activity among Crimean residents, especially among Crimean Tatars (with few exceptions, those prosecuted in Hizb ut-Tahrir cases belong to this ethnic group). Crimean Tatars have tended to take a negative view of the 2014 annexation and since then have been subject to persecution. In Ukraine, the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir are still legal.
It is important to emphasize that both the criminal prosecutions themselves and the remanding of Crimeans in custody outside Crimea are gross violations of the norms of international humanitarian law.
More information about the prosecutions of Aleksandr Sizikov, Alim Sufyanov, and Seiran Khairedinov and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our Telegram channel.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How can you help?
You can send electronic letters to political prisoners from Crimea via the website of the Crimean Solidarity movement.
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