Rashid Dzhabrail-Ogly ABDULOV against Russia (Application no 32040/12) and 8 other applications

European Court (31.08.2017) – http://bit.ly/2gmLEvI – The applications concern prosecution of members of religious movement Nurculuk (“Нуржулар”) based on the writings of Said Nursi, a Muslim Turkish scholar who lived in the first half of the 20th century.

In May 2007 Risale-I Nur Collection, a body of commentary on the Quran written by Said Nursi, was declared extremist materials and banned by the Koptevskiy District Court of Moscow.

On 10 April 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, sitting in camera, declared Nurculuk an extremist organisation and banned it. Mr Merazhov’s, Mr Odilov’s and Mr Salimzyanov’s applications for a leave to appeal were rejected on the ground that they were not a party to the proceedings and their rights were not affected by the ban.

On various dates between 2011 and 2015 the applicants were convicted of leadership or membership of an extremist organisation, an offence under Article 282.2 §§ 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to fines, correctional labour or imprisonment ranging between one year conditional on one year’s probation and one year and six months really served. The courts found that they had participated in the activities of Nurculuk after it had been declared an extremist organisation, in particular by reading in groups extremist books by Said Nursi, books by Muhammed Fethullah Gülen and other Islamic books some of which had been also declared extremist.

Mr Abdulov was also convicted, for the same activities, of incitement of hatred or discord as well as abasement of human dignity, an offence under Article 282 § 1 of the Criminal Code.

In August 2013, while the criminal proceedings against Mr Salimzyanov were still pending, his name was included in the list of persons suspected of extremist or terrorist activities. That information was widely published by the media and on Internet. The applicant’s bank account was blocked and he was unable to open a new bank account. He was also unable to find employment. His judicial review complaint was rejected.

In December 2014 Mr Merazhov was dismissed from his post as a professor of mathematics at a university on the ground that he had been convicted of leadership of an extremist organisation, a criminal offence against the constitutional foundations and security of the Russian Federation.

Questions to the Parties

  1. Was the judgment of 10 April 2008 by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation officially published? If it was published, the Government are requested to produce a copy of the official publication of the full text or, at least, the operative part of the judgment.
  2. As regards the Supreme Court’s decision to declare Nurculuk (“Нуржулар”) an extremist organisation and ban it, was there a violation of Mr Salimzyanov’s rights to freedom of religion, expression and association under Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention? In particular, what legitimate aim did that measure pursue, was it proportionate to that legitimate aim and necessary in a democratic society?
  3. Given that members of Nurculuk were not notified of the date of the hearing of 10 April 2008 and that Mr Salimzyanov was refused leave to appeal against the judgment, has there been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention in respect of Mr Salimzyanov (see the Constitutional Court’s judgment no. 10-P of 21 April 2010, point 3.1)?
  4. Has Mr Kazikhanov complied with the six-month time-limit laid down in Article 35 § 1 of the Convention?
  5. As regards each applicant’s conviction, was there an interference with his or her right to freedom of religion, expression or association under Articles 9 § 1, 10 § 1 or 11 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law? In particular, if the judgment of 10 April 2008 was not officially published, can the applicable law be considered sufficiently accessible and foreseeable? Was the interference “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Articles 9 § 2, 10 § 2 and 11 § 2 of the Convention?
  6. As regards the confiscation and destruction of religious books belonging to Mr Merazhov and Mr Odilov and the retention and destruction of files with religious contents on their computers, was there an interference with their right to freedom of religion or expression under Articles 9 § 1 or 10 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law and “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Articles 9 § 2 and 10 § 2 of the Convention?
  7. As regards the inclusion of Mr Salimzyanov’s name in the list of persons suspected of extremist or terrorist activities:
  • Was there an interference with his right to freedom of religion, expression or association under Articles 9 § 1, 10 § 1 or 11 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law? Was it “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Articles 9 § 2, 10 § 2 and 11 § 2 of the Convention?
  • Given the repercussions of this measure on Mr Salimzyanov’s everyday life, was there an interference with his right to respect for private life under Article 8 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law? Was it “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention?
  • Did Mr Salimzyanov have an effective domestic remedy in respect of his complaints under Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention, as required by Article 13 of the Convention?
  1. As regards Mr Merazhov’s dismissal from his post as a university professor:
  • Was there an interference with his right to freedom of religion, expression or association under Articles 9 § 1, 10 § 1 or 11 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law, in particular in the light of the Constitutional Court’s ruling no. 19-П of 18 July 2013? Was the interference “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Articles 9 § 2, 10 § 2 and 11 § 2 of the Convention?
  • Was there an interference with his right to respect for private life under Article 8 § 1 of the Convention? Was the interference prescribed by law? Was it “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention?

HRWF Comment

Said Nursi followers are prosecuted for religious activities that do not pose any public danger. They deny that there is any movement namedNurculuk or Nurcular. Nursi himself never advocated or incited violence, called for the overthrow of the regime or favoured the establishment of a caliphate. Nursi’s teachings were moderate in character and appeal to Muslims wishing to reconcile Islamic teaching and modernity. Followers meet to discuss his works in private homes and do not pose any threat.

See our description of the Turkish theologian’s teachings at http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/AR-Said-Nursi-Readers.2015.pdf

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Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/ 
List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/