26 October 2016
On 24 October, the North Caucasus District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don found Magomednabi Magomedov, Imam of the Eastern Mosque of Khasavyurt, guilty of inciting terrorism. Magomedov has been declared a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Human rights activist Oleg Orlov comments: "In more and more cases, we are seeing that Russian investigators and courts regard criticism of the authorities as extremism or even as incitement to acts of terrorism."
Magomedov has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in a standard-regime prison colony, even though the public prosecutor had previously requested a less severe sentence of five years in a penal colony settlement.
The Imam is accused of committing crimes under Article 205.2, Section 1, (public incitement to commit terrorist acts or public justification of terrorism) and Article 282, Section 1, (incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of human dignity) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
The investigators believe that Magomedov incited hatred against representatives of the authorities and the law-enforcement agencies and against Communists, and claim that he gave a sermon on 5 February 2016 which “contained words and phrases expressing an intention to justify terrorism, incite hatred and abase the dignity of individuals or groups of individuals on the grounds of religion or the fact that they belong to a particular social group (representatives of the authorities and the law-enforcement agencies and Communists).”
Magomedov was represented in court by the lawyers Petr Zaikin and Dagir Khasavov.
Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared Magomedov to be a political prisoner.
Lawyer for the defence, Petr Zaikin, asserts that the Imam’s defence team provided convincing evidence that the charges were absurd, and claims that the harsh sentence handed down by the court demonstrates its bias against Magomednabi Magomedov.
During the proceedings, the lawyer pointed out that the statements by the witnesses for the prosecution confirmed nothing more than the time and place of the event. In his opinion, the actions of the accused did not constitute a crime and the guilty verdict was based purely on guesswork by the prosecution. Even when viewed in its entirety, the evidence examined by the court during the trial did not prove Magomedov’s guilt.
The charges were based exclusively on the conclusions drawn by the linguistic expert Dinara Adzhamatova, even though these conclusions were refuted by the defence and Adzhamatova’s opinion had been submitted in violation of a number of different rules.
Adzhamatova’s signed acknowledgement that she had been informed of the consequences of giving knowingly false evidence was dated 11 February 2016, even though the criminal proceedings against Magomednabi Magomedov were only initiated on 29 March 2016, meaning that her conclusions are inadmissible as evidence. Adzhamatova was also instructed to draw up an expert opinion by the investigator rather than an expert committee, as should have been the case.
The linguist’s expert opinion is dated 29 March, i.e. the date on which the criminal proceedings were opened, but was in fact produced between 16 May and 7 June, and the defence and the accused were only informed of the decision to appoint an expert on 2 June, in other words. while it was being produced. The defence team was therefore effectively prevented from challenging the need for an expert opinion or requesting the appointment of other specialists as experts.
The court failed to take into account the fact that the expert should not have been asked to carry out tasks and provide answers to legal questions which fell outside her sphere of competence. The expert should not have been asked whether the text contained an incitement to acts of extremism, since this is a legal question.
Zaikin goes on to say that all of the witnesses, with the exception of the secret witness, made it clear that their statements during the preliminary investigations had been misinterpreted by the court.
Lawyers are planning to lodge an appeal against the sentence before the Court of Appeal.
Oleg Orlov, head of the 'Hot Spots' programme of Memorial Human Rights Centre, gave the following commentary on the case: "In more and more cases, we are seeing that Russian investigators and courts regard criticism of the authorities as extremism or even as incitement to acts of terrorism. This is nothing more or less than political repression, and the case of Magomednabi Magomedov is a good example of this trend.
The Imam did indeed severely criticise the authorities and police officials for their attempts to close down mosques in one of his Friday sermons, but his words were in no sense a justification of terrorism. He also referred to the fact that the Communists had previously also closed down mosques and that Allah had punished the godless regime which no longer existed.
Is this really a justification of terrorism or an incitement to enmity? Is it really the case that merely pointing out the criminal and godless nature of the Communist regime is now a criminally punishable act in our country?!
Magomednabi Magomedov was in fact sentenced as a result of the fact that he led a non-violent protest against the anti-constitutional persecution of people on the grounds of religious belief.
This decision by the authorities makes no sense at all. The convicted Imam has consistently and publicly condemned violence, and criticised young Muslims for 'taking to the forest' or travelling to the Middle East. At the same time as protesting against the closure of mosques, he called for constructive dialogue with the representatives of the authorities, and had himself participated in talks of this kind. Yet apparently the security forces and the civil service are dominated by people who can only work in terms of extremes and within a paradigm of state terror. Their habitual and preferred approach is confrontation and the suppression of any kind of dissent, whether civil or religious. The very idea of constructive dialogue between the authorities and society is beyond the pale for them. The consequence of this is that mosques are closed down, crowds of worshippers are detained for arbitrary reasons after Friday prayers and imams are sentenced on trumped-up charges".
Translated by Joanne Reynolds
HRO.org in English >