Legal Case of the Week: Mahmoud Velitov

posted 16 Jul 2016, 23:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2016, 00:14 ]
On 12/7 imam of Moscow's Yardyam Mosque Mahmoud Velitov was arrested on charges of inciting terrorism for alleged support for Abdullah Gappaev, an alleged member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in Russia. As The Moscow Times reports, Mahmoud Velitov was "arrested on Tuesday by the special services and is being interrogated by the Russian Investigative Committee. [...] According to investigators, Velitov supported the actions of Abdullah Gappaev — allegedly a member of the Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist organization — in an interview with an Islamic publication in September 2013. The imam has partly admitted to the charges [...]." Mahmoud Velitov's lawyer has said that "Velitov's home was searched, and a large amount of religious literature was found that would likely be deemed extremist. He added that detention in solitary confinement is dangerous for the imam because he underwent an operation earlier this year. [...] The charge carries a prison sentence of between two and five years." RFE/RL notes that "investigators say Velitov - in a sermon on September 23 - sought to justify the activities of a member of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir extremist organization.The spokesperson [for the Investigative Committee] did not provide further details."

In so far as the organization Hizb ut-Tahrir is concerned, in a recent report on political prisoners in Russia, Memorial Human Rights Centre stated: "Perhaps the most widespread repressions have been seen with regard to Muslims who peacefully sought to exercise their right to freedom of conscience and association, especially those charged with membership of the organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al Islami, banned in Russia as a terrorist organization. In the past 6 months alone, on these grounds 27 individuals have been added to the list of political prisoners, and this group of victims of political repression is the least fully represented on the list."

Earlier, in relation to the prosecution of 23 Muslims from Bashkortostan, Memorial Human Rights Centre stated: "We consider all those charged to be innocent, since in the materials of the case Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami is referred to as an ‘international terrorist organization’, and it was as such that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation banned the organization in its decision of 4 February 2003. However, neither in the decision of the Supreme Court banning Hizb ut-Tahrir, nor in the materials of the criminal cases prosecuted in Russia and the countries of the CIS, are there any concrete facts witnessing to the terrorist nature of the organization, or to any other kind of violent activity for which it is responsible. Despite the fact that Hizb ut-Tahrir does not share the ideas of democracy and human rights, in the democratic states of Western Europe and North America no criminal prosecutions have been brought with regard to membership of the organization. Only in Germany is there an administrative ban on the activities of the organization, but this is not related to accusations of terrorism. Neither is there evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir takes part in jihadist groups in Europe or the Middle East; moreover, the organization is criticized by radicals for ‘avoiding jihad.’ The decision of the Supreme Court to recognize the organization as terrorist was taken in blatant violation of the fundamental principles of law, something noted, in particular, by the European Court of Human Rights." 

Photo: Radio Svoboda

Moscow Imam Arrested on Inciting Terrorism Charges, The Moscow Times, 12 July 2016
'Imam At Moscow Mosque Accused Of Justifying Terrorism,' RFE/RL, 12 July 2016
'В Москве задержан имам мечети "Ярдям" Махмуд Велитов,' Radio Svoboda, 12 July 2016
'Memorial Human Rights Centre: List of Political Prisoners as of 9 May 2016,' Rights in Russia, 25 May 2016
Memorial recognizes 23 Muslims from Bashkortostan as political prisoners, Rights in Russia, 26 April 2016
Geraldine Fagan, 'RUSSIA: Ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir not to be challenged?,' Forum 18, 10 April 2006