By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)
HRWF (09.09.2022) https://hrwf.eu – On 22 September, Moscow’s Kuzminsky District Court is due to begin the largest criminal trial for eight years of six Muslims who met to study the works of the Turkish theologian Said Nursi (*). Since their arrest in October 2021, they have been in pre-trial detention in Moscow’s Investigation Prison No. 2, known as Butyrka.
Their names are: Yevgeny Pavlovich Tarasov, Mukazhan Gazizovich Ksyupov, Parviz Ogtay ogly Zeynalov, Urdash Zubayruyevich Abdullayev, Ilmir Salikhovich Abdullin, Nikolay Mironovich Nesterovich.
They stand accused of “organising” and “participating in” the activities of “Nurdzhular”, which was banned as extremist in 2008 but which Muslims in Russia deny ever existed as a formal organisation.
They are prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 or Part 2 (“Organisation of” or “Participation in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity”):
Article 282.2, Part 1 – six to 10 years’ imprisonment, plus a compulsory ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to 10 years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for one to two years after release; or a 400,000 to 800,000 Rouble fine;
Article 282.2, Part 2 – two to six years’ imprisonment, plus a possible ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to five years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for up to one year after release; or a 300,000 to 600,000 Rouble fine; or one to four years’ assigned labour, plus a possible ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to three years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for up to one year.
On 25 August 2022, the six Said Nursi followers appeared at Kuzminsky District Court in Moscow, for the preliminary hearing in the criminal case opened against them for meeting to study the writings of Said Nursi.
A correspondent of HRWF summarized the proceedings as follows:
«On 25 August 2022, a preliminary hearing was held in a criminal case against six citizens of the Russian Federation, namely Yevgeny Pavlovich Tarasov, Mukazhan Gazizovich Ksyupov, Parviz Ogtay ogly Zeynalov, Urdash Zubayruyevich Abdullayev, Ilmir Salikhovich Abdullin, Nikolay Mironovich Nesterovich accused of committing a crime under Article 282.2, Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. None of the defendants had previous convictions.
The preliminary meeting was also attended by seven lawyers, defenders of the accused, who filed a number of motions.
Seven lawyers defending the accused also attended the preliminary hearing and filed a number of motions.
Defence counsel I.I. Ptashnik requested that the case be returned to the prosecutor for further investigation, referring to the fact that the investigator had set out his personal conclusions in the indictment, already considering the guilt of the accused to be proven in advance. He also requested that the report of one of the investigative actions, a confrontation, be excluded from the evidence because, in his view, this investigative action had been conducted in breach of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
A similar petition for the exclusion of the protocol of another one of the protocols of confrontation from among the evidence was filed by the defender Saltykov A.A.
The defence counsels Sychev S.A. and Bakhtin R.A. filed a motion to return the criminal case to the prosecutor’s office for additional investigation, arguing that the court would be deprived of the opportunity to make a legal decision, since the material evidence – printed publications in various foreign languages - had not been translated into Russian and their examination during the trial would be problematic and expensive. In addition, the defendants could not familiarize themselves with this evidence due to the lack of translation into Russian.
The representative of the prosecutor’s office expressed her objections to the above petitions, pointing out that the indictment was drawn up in accordance with the requirements of the law, and it was premature to talk about the exclusion of evidence from the case. In addition, the representative of the prosecutor’s office indicated that the measure of detention concerning all six accused was chosen on the basis of the law, and there were no grounds for changing or canceling such a measure. On that basis, the representative of the prosecutor’s office asked the court to leave the chosen preventive measure in force and extend it for a period of six months from the date on which the criminal case came before the court.
After hearing the prosecution and the defense, the court stated that it saw no grounds for satisfying the defense lawyers’ motions to return the case to the prosecutor for additional investigation, because the court had not established the statutory grounds (Article 237 of the Russian Criminal Code) providing for the rules for unconditional return of the case to the prosecutor. The court pointed out that the arguments of the defense about the inadmissibility of evidence were limited to an assessment of the evidence collected in the case, which is within the competence of the court when making a final decision in a criminal case, and it is for the court to assess it within the established procedure. There were no grounds for recognizing the evidence as inadmissible, since the court had not yet begun to consider the merits of the case, and the prosecution had not begun to provide evidence.
Having considered the petition of the representative of the prosecutor’s office to apply a preventive measure for each of the accused and having heard the opinions of the prosecution and the defense, the court assessed the personality of each of the accused and decided to keep the existing preventive measure – pretrial detention – since there were no grounds for canceling or amending such a preventive measure. At the same time, the court ordered that such a preventive measure be imposed for a period of six months – from the date the criminal case was received by the court and until February 10, 2023.
The court scheduled the hearing of the case in open court for 1 September 2022 at 12:00». The hearing was however afterwards postponed to 22 September.
On 28 August 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg found that Russian bans on Nursi’s works violated Article 10 (“Freedom of expression”) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Application Nos. 1413/08 and 28621/11).
(*) More information about Said Nursi here
Photo: Moscow’s Kuzminsky District Court. Credit: Google