Memorial Human Rights Centre: The prosecution of five residents of Bashkortostan, convicted of involvement in Nurjular, an Islamic association, has a political motive

posted 9 Jun 2019, 10:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Jun 2019, 10:26 ]
29 May 2019


Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre



In March 2017 Azamat Abutalipov, Aivar Khabibullin, Airat Ibragimov, Timur Munasypov and Shamil Khusnitdinov were sentenced at Ufa’s October district court to suspended sentences under Article 282.2 of the Russian Federation (organisation of the activity of an extremist organisation).

In June of that year the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan quashed the suspended sentences. Two of the defendants were given prison sentences under Article 282.2 (Section 1): Abutalipov was given four years; Khabibullin was given two years and three months. The three others were given suspended sentences under Article 282. 2 (Section 2): Ibragimov and Munasypov were given a two-year suspended sentence; Khusnitdinov was given a suspended sentence of 22 months. All those convicted were also banned from educational work.

According to the prosecution and court, all five were involved in activities of the Nurjular organisation (to be exact, the ‘Jamaat Hizmet movement’ that is allegedly a branch of Nurjular associated with the Gülen movement) on the territory of Bashkortostan, namely:

- Regularly conducted meetings with young people in order to recruit them to Nurjular and popularise the extremist branch of Islam;

- Rented apartments in Ufa ‘where under the cover of holding Islamic classes they held sessions to attract people to Nurjular.

- Stored and disseminated the propaganda literature of Nurjular and Hizmet.

None of the defendants pleaded guilty. All asserted they actually did study religious literature and the works of Said Nursi, but never took part in the activities of the Nurjular ‘organisation’.

We consider that no such organisation exists, and the attribution of the status of a ‘structured organisation’ to the community of followers of Nursi is a mystification by the Russian security services.

Nurjular is the generalised name adopted by followers of the Turkish Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960), whose collected works are the Risale-i Nur. Nursi’s adherents concentrate on religious and moral issues and do not involve themselves in politics. Russian courts assert the opposite, but provide no real evidence.

Nonetheless, regular group study of the books of Said Nursi in Russia has, over the past 15 years, systematically resulted in criminal prosecutions (see, for example, https://memohrc.org/ru/defendants/kim-evgeniy-lvovich or https://memohrc.org/ru/special-projects/mahachkalinskoe-delo-posledovateley-saida-nursi). Such prosecutions are usually accompanied by a propaganda campaign intended to present the defendants as enemies who, apart from other things, are secretly advancing Turkish political influence.

In 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation designated the Nurjular association as extremist on the grounds that the ‘activity of structural subdivisions of the organisation on the territory of Russia threatens inter-ethnic and inter-faith stability in the country and the territorial integrity of the state.’

The judicial rulings banning Nursi’s works state that the books have an ‘irrational influence’ on personalities, furthering conflict between Muslims and non-believers: ‘their content is intended to…spread exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of their attitude towards religion.’ We consider these assertions are unsound and politically motivated.

On 28 August 2018 the European Court of Human Rights published a judgment in the case of Ibragim Ibragimov and others v. Russia which found that the banning of the works of Said Nursi on grounds of extremism violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of expression.

Hizmet, an organisation that the Ufa court called the ‘Gülen branch of Nurjular,’ is a Turkish and international movement founded by Fethullah Gülen and not related to Nurjular either organisationally or in terms of its ideas. Supporters of Hizmet emphasise the importance of science and education in the life of society and condemn religious radicalism and terrorism. Russian courts without any justification have put several of the Gülen’s movement’s books on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The movement is not itself banned in Russia.

In the judgment handed down in June 2017 in Ufa there is no evidence that those convicted were involved in acts of violence or in any other activity that would have violated human or civic rights. We consider that the criminal prosecution of five Muslims from Bashkortostan is directly related to their religious beliefs and violates their right to freedom of conscience.

The law enforcement agencies have, in effect, invented an organisation in order to imitate activity to protect public security, and in doing so have sought to manipulate the Islamophobia that exists in society.

In addition, such behaviour by law enforcement agencies fits into a trend evident over many years by which anti-extremism legislation is transformed into a means to suppress freedom of conscience and association, extending the powers of the security services and, in that way, strengthening the powers of those in authority.

Memorial considers Abutalipov and Khabibullin to be political prisoners; and Ibragimov, Munasypov and Khusnitdinov to be victims of unlawful politically motivated prosecution.

We demand the immediate end of their criminal prosecutions and the release of those deprived of their liberty.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

More information about this case is available on our website.


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