European Court of Human Rights suspends extradition of Turkmen citizen from Russia
Nevertheless, the next day on 17 May 2017 the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of Russia dismissed Mr Bekiyev's complaint against the decision on his extradition issued on 27 December 2016.
According to Vitaly Ponomarev, who the director of the Central Asian programme of the ‘Memorial’ Human Rights Center, Ashyrbai Bekiyev had left Turkmenistan in 2009, and he has constantly lived in St. Petersburg since then together with his family (wife and five children).
On 2 December 2015, the Investigative Department of the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan in the Dashoguz velayat (region) opened a criminal case against him in connection with clause 1 of the Article 177 (‘Raising Social, National or Religious Enmity’) of the Criminal Code, which provides up to three years in prison as a punishment. A similar charge was made in absentia in respect to his brother Tachmyrat, who also lived in St. Petersburg.
Ashyrbai Bekiyev was detained on 22 May 2016 and has been in SIZO-4 of St. Petersburg since then. During the debate in Supreme Court of Russia his defence insisted that the charges against him do not have a serious justification and are based on speculation and rumours.
However, on 27 December 2016 Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia Sahak Karapetyan ordered the extradition of Ashyrbai Bekiyev according to the procedures stipulated by the Minsk Convention, which the CIS countries signed on 22 January 1993. This decision was appealed by his defence, though next level St. Petersburg City Court dismissed complaints of Ashyrbai Bekiyev. The decision of the St. Petersburg City Court was appealed in the Supreme Court of Russia.
During the hearings in the Supreme Court appealing against the previous St. Petersburg City Court decision, Lawyer Sergei Bykovsky detailed the existence of a threat of torture in Turkmenistan and personal risks for Mr Bekiyev (his brother and relatives were persecuted for religious reasons and disappeared without a trace in Turkmen prisons); stressed the insufficiency of the ‘diplomatic guarantees’ presented by the Turkmen side.
Sergei Bykovsky mentioned the FSB document in the case file which says that Mr Bekiyev during his residence in Russia had not posed a threat to the security of the country. Meanwhile, the accusation against Mr Bekiyev in Turkmenistan is based on assumptions about his alleged involvement in terrorist activities in Russia.
Claims of the investigative body that Mr Bekiyev had disappeared from the investigation in Turkmenistan also do not correspond to reality according to Mr Bykovsky, since his client legally lived in Russia, where he moved long before the start of the criminal case.
The court granted the defence’s motion to file the appeal of Human Rights Watch to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation dated 16 May 2017, a letter from the UNHCR office in Russia, and an ECHR document on the application of Rule 39 to prevent Mr Bekiyev's extradition to Turkmenistan.
Mr Bekiyev himself made a short statement in Turkmen language during the court hearings that he never violated the laws of Russia, that he is a religious and a family man, moved to Russia to raise children decent citizens, and in case of extradition to Turkmenistan he does not expect a fair trial there.
Prosecutor Guliyev said in his speech that there are assurances from the Turkmen side that the criminal case against Mr Bekiyev does not intend to pursue him for political reasons, and in case of extradition Mr Bekiyev will be provided with all possible protection. In general, according to the prosecutor the extradition to Turkmenistan ‘is in accordance with international obligations and laws of our country,’ and the adoption of the complaint by the European Court of Human Rights only temporarily suspends this process.
Guliyev noted that on 29 August 2016 Mr Bekiev's application for asylum in Russia had been rejected, but did not mention that at the end of March 2017 a new application for temporary asylum was submitted, a decision on which has not yet been made.
As a result of the court hearings, the board of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation made a decision to dismiss claims (one of the judges made a dissenting opinion). The full text of the judgment will not be available until early June. Meanwhile, the deadline for the detention of Mr Bekiev expires soon, and as the lawyer Olga Tseitlina expects a fight for his release, Vitaly Ponomarev reported.