25 april 2018

Central Asia news

Moscow court convicts human rights defender from Uzbekistan to 16 years in prison

25.12.2017 14:32 msk

Fergananews


Rakhmiddin Kamolov
The Moscow District Military Court has sentenced Rakhmiddin Kamolov, the human rights defender from Uzbekistan, to 16 years in prison finding him guilty of running the local cell of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir organisation which Russia considers extremist. Timofei Shirokov, Kamolov's lawyer, reports about it.

The verdict was pronounced on 18 December. "In fact, the whole evidence based on the materials of the only audio record [made] in the flat where Rakhmiddin and two of his acquaintances met, and discussed the issues of holding Iftar treatment during the Ramadan fasting and other vital issues for Muslims that are not related to the activities of HT ("Hizb ut-Tahrir" - note by Fergana News). 16 years [in prison] for one meeting and even not, not reading books, as has been usual in cases with HT sentences (no books were read at all), but for the conversations dangerous to the state about Iftars and shish kebabs!" writes Shirokov on his Facebook page. He said that he would appeal the verdict, calling it "the pressure on the human rights community, especially that part of it that defends the rights of Muslims and migrants."

The 28-year-old native of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Rakhmiddin Kamolov, is the assistant to Bakhrom Khamroev, the well-known human rights defender and director of the "Yordam" ("Help") legal counselling centre and member of the "Memorial" human rights centre. Commenting on the court's decision, Khamroev has stated that Kamolov maintained contacts with various people, representatives of different parties, organisations and groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir "for the professional sake." "Naturally, as an active, compassionate human rights activist and Muslim, he showed the keen interest in the life and views of Muslims and studied this organisation. At the same time, Rakhmiddin never entered into it, which all the witnesses questioned had testified at the trial," he has stressed.

Khamroev also noted that the FSB during the investigation against his assistant had exerted pressure on him - conducted searches, called for interrogations, "was keenly interested" whether he had joined criminal organisations. Besides, according to the human rights activist, slanderous stories about him were posted in the media. "To my dismay, I have to state that Russia is no longer lagging behind Uzbekistan regarding persecuting critics and political repressions," he added.

The authorities of Uzbekistan issued an international warrant for Rakhmiddin Kamolov under charges as "encroachment on the constitutional system of Uzbekistan" and "participation in prohibited religious organisations" according to the Criminal Code of the republic. Over the past few years, the human rights defender has sought asylum in Russia. In the autumn of last year, the Russian authorities arrested Kamolov after the official extradition request. Shortly before this, unknown people had tried to kidnap him and take him to Uzbekistan.

In December 2016, according to Ozodlik Radio (the Uzbek service of Radio Liberty), the extradition examination against Kamolov was suspended by Rule 39 of the European Court of Human Rights. However, he has never been released from the SIZO (pre-trial custody centre) and accused of having links with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In March of this year, investigators in Uzbekistan questioned the 18-year-old brother of the human rights defender, Ilkhom Kamolov. Ilkhom spent 24 hours in the SIZO of the Bukhara regional department of the National Security Service (SNB), the next day he was taken to the hospital where he died.

"Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami" is an international political organisation that has existed since 1953. Its goal is to create a world Islamic caliphate formally rejecting Western democracy, terrorism and armed struggle. In Central Asia, Hizb ut-Tahrir members have traditionally been accused of terrorist activities. The Russian Supreme Court listed the organisation as an extremist on 14 February 2003.

In recent years, hundreds of people, including human rights defenders, have been arrested in various regions of Russia suspected of membership with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Currently, Rustem Latypov, who collaborated with the "Civil Assistance" and "Memorial", is being trialled in the Russian city of Ufa. He has been charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist organisation and preparing for a violent seizure of power.

Fergana News Agency