Eduard Nizamov Gets 23 Years Hard Time for Thought Crimes

nizamovEduard Nizamov. Photo courtesy of Idel.Realii (RFE/RL)

Court Sentences Kazan Resident Eduard Nizamov to 23 Years in Maximum Security for Managing Hizb ut-Tahrir
Regina Gimalova
Idel.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
February 10, 2020

Today, February 10, the Central Military District court in Yekaterinburg announced its verdict in the trial of Kazan resident Eduard Nizamov, accused of managing the Russian wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Nizamov was sentenced to 23 years in a maximum-security penal colony.

The Kazan resident was charged with financing terrorism (punishable under Article 205.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), organizing terrorist activity (Article 205.5.1), and attempting to seize power illegally (Article 278.30.1). Nizamov pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He and his defense attorney, Rifat Yakhin, consider the case a frame-up.

During the trial, the defense revealed the real identity of a secret witness who testified to investigators. The defense argued that their testimony was used to implicate Nizamov.

“This witness, whose identity was hidden under a man’s name, allegedly donated money to finance Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activities. In fact, the witness is a woman whose child goes to the same school and studies in the same class as my client’s child,” Yakhin said.

“The financing of terrorism” in question was the payment of 200,000 rubles to Nizamov. According to Yakhin, the woman acting as a hidden witness gave his client this amount because Nizamov was building her a house. He argues that the authorities “got to” the woman, whose husband was then serving time for involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Investigators were unable to find this amount of money in Nizamov’s possession during the investigation.

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence Nizamov to 25 years in a penal colony and fine him 200,0000 rubles, to be paid to the state treasury. The defense asked the court to acquit Nizamov. The court sided with the prosecution, finding Nizamov guilty on all three counts and sentencing him to 23 years in a maximum-security penal colony and ordering him to pay the 200,000 rubles.

Nizamov was detained on October 10, 2018, at his home in Kazan. He was suspected of running the Russian wing of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. In September of last year, the final version of the charges against Nizamov were made public. In addition to managing the organization, he was charged with financing terrorism and planning the violent seizure of power.

Two other residents of Kazan, Ildar Akhmetzyanov and Rais Gimadeyev, were also detained on the same day as Nizamov. They were identified by authorities as “leaders” of the banned organization in Tatarstan.

All of them have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The maximum punishment for the crimes they are alleged to have committed is life in prison.

After his arrest, Nizamov complained that officers at the remand prison had tortured him. He also said that his cellmates had been provoking him. According to our source, Nizamov was moved to another cell after his story went public.

In 2005, Nizamov was convicted of involvement in an extremist organization, as punishable under Article 282.2.2 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced to two years’ probation.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was designated a “terrorist organization” in Russia in 2003. According to human rights activists, the decision was groundless, since there was no evidence that members of the movement had ever planned or carried out terrorist attacks. The Memorial Human Rights Center has placed Nizamov on its list of Russian political prisoners.

Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Judge Not

trialStill from Judge Gramm. Courtesy of YouTube

Activist Karim Yamadayev Could Face Criminal Charges for Video Depicting “Execution” of Sechin and Peskov
Grani.ru
January 3, 2019

Quoting human rights activist Ruzil Mingalimov, MBKh Media reports that the Tatarstan branch of the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation under Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code (“insulting a government official”) over an episode of the web series Judge Gramm in which activist Karim Yamadayev, playing a judge, sentences Igor Sechin and Dmitry Peskov.

Judge Gramm (Episode 1)

In the video, the judge reads out sentences to people wearing black bags over their heads and signs reading “Vladimir Putin,” “Dmitry Peskov,” and “Igor Sechin,” respectively. The judge sentences Peskov and Sechin to death before escorting them off camera, taking a gun with him, in Peskov’s case, and an axe, in Sechin’s. Sounds of a gunshot and an axe striking a chopping block are then heard. At the end of the video, the judge says that the trial has been recessed until the following week.

Investigators searched Yamadayev’s home on Friday before taking him to the Russian Investigative Committee. Police also searched an office and the home of Yamadayev’s parents, said Alexei Glukhov, head of Apologia for Protest. Mingalimov reported to Mediazona that Yamadayev was interrogated and qualified as a witness before being released.

During the search, investigators seized computer equipment and a notebook containing passwords to online payment systems.

“[Yamadayev] is afraid the investigators will clean them out,” Mingalimov said.

On December 31, Yamadayev was summoned to the police over the same video.

“They got a tip, which they didn’t show us, by the way. They said they were obliged to react to the tip within seventy-two hours, and so they summoned [Yamadayev],” Mingalimov said.

After making a statement, Yamadayev was released.

96593“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, 1952–2019.” Photo courtesy of Grani.ru

A resident of Naberezhnye Chelny, Yamadayev was jailed on March 12, 2019, for twenty-eight days for, allegedly, setting up a gravestone with Putin’s name outside the city’s Investigative Committee office. Another activist, 32-year-old Nikolai Peresedov, was sentenced to six days in jail over the incident. Yamadayev was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.8 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events”), while Peresedov was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.2 (“holding a public event without prior notification”). Yamadayev went on hunger strike during his time in jail. In September, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Neocolonialism

7d34dc1c84d3ef36Tatarstan’s second largest city, Naberezhnye Chelny, is known as Yar Chally in Tatar. Photo courtesy of Realnoe Vremya

Minority Languages Ready for Third Reading
State Duma Updates Standards for Teaching Official Languages
Viktor Khamrayev and Kirill Antonov
Kommersant
July 25, 2018

On Wednesday, July 25, the State Duma should pass in its third and final reading a law bill that would make study of the Russian Federation’s official language, Russian, and the official languages of the country’s ethnic republics an obligatory part of the school curriculum. However, parents would freely choose the language their children study as their native tongue. MPs are confident they have defused the anxiety felt in the ethnic republics over the plight of minority native languages. Experts in a number of the republics, however, are still concerned minority native tongues will gradually outlive their usefulness.

On Tuesday, July 24, the Duma approved in their second reading amendments to the law “On Education.” During their first reading, the draft amendments had drawn criticism from the ethnic republics due to the fact they introduced the principle of choice when studying native languages.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, chair of the Duma’s education committee, told Kommersant two important provisions had been inserted into the law bill for the second reading. The Federal Education Standards “should guarantee the opportunity to be instructed in the native languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation” and, to this end, they should provide for the study of “the official languages of the Russian Federation’s republics, the native languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, including the Russian language.”

According to Mr. Nikonov, this rule should diffuse “concerns in the republics that the study of minority languages would become optional.”

“The federal standard means mandatory inclusion in the curriculum,” Mr. Nikonov said.

At the same time, the law establishes the free choice of the language of classroom instruction, as well as the choice of what language children would study as their native tongue, as determined by their parents.

During its second reading, 371 MPs voted for the law bill. It should pass during its third reading on Wednesday.

Mr. Nikonov reported the education committee had already negotiated with the relevant parties to establish a fund to support native languages.

“We suggest establishing the fund through a presidential decree, making it a presidential fund with appropriate federal financing,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Nikonov said MPs had been asked to develop the basic concept on which the new Federal Education Standards would be based. The government has established a working group in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Duma after the first reading of the bill.

As approved by MPs, the draft law does not provide for a transitional period while the government elaborates the new concept and educational standards. The law would come into force as soon as it was signed by the president and published. In this regard, the republics are afraid of the consequences set in motion once the law has been adopted. The free choice of a native language would come into play in the absence of new federal standards.

Under current guidelines, pupils attend five hours of Russian classes a week, while minority language classes are offered only three hours a week, Svetlana Semyonova, director of the Ethnic Schools Research Institute, explained to Kommersant.

This means, Ms. Semyonova said, that “pupils who choose Russian as their native language will have eight hours of Russian class a week, while those pupils whose native language is Yakut will study Russian for only five hours a week.”

Given that the Leaving Certificate Examination (EGE) is administered only in Russian, Ms. Semyonova argues Yakut children would be more poorly prepared for it.

Due to the EGE, very few pupils would risk choosing a minority language as their native language, Marat Lotfullin, a researcher in ethnic education at the History Institute of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant. Even non-Russian children in Tatarstan would choose Russia as their native language. He fears the Tatar language will gradually outlive its usefulness.

Mr. Lotfullin draws attention to the fact that the new law stipulates the teaching of minority native languages and classroom instruction in these languages only for primary and secondary schools, meaning ethnic schools would function only until the ninth grade.

This is “a serious restriction of the rights of the peoples of the Russian Federation,” he argues.

“If we take Tatarstan, Tatars have always enjoyed instruction in Tatar all through secondary school, including the upper grades,” Mr. Lotfullin said.

Translated by the Russian Reader. See whether you can square this story with my previous post, about a young Khakas woman in Abakan who has been charged with “extremism” by the FSB for promoting Khakas language and culture, and publishing a blog post about the discrimination Khakas experience at the hands of ethnic Russians, who constitute the majority in the nominally “ethnic” Republic of Khakassia.

Showdown in Kazan between Officials and Angry Depositors

tatfondbank
Photo courtesy of Mikhail Zakharov/Kazansky Reporter

Tatfondbank Depositors Protest in Kazan
RBC
March 4, 2017

On Saturday, March 4, depositors of Tatfondbank, whose license has been revoked, held a protest rally outside the Republic of Tatarstan’s government house. The protesters presented Ildar Khalikov, the republic’s prime minister, with a petition demanding the government challenge the Russian Central Bank’s decision to revoke the bank’s license and compensate depositors for their losses. The depositors gave the authorities three days to think it over. Otherwise, they will call for the republic’s president and cabinet to resign. Tatfondbank’s license was revoked on March 3.

Translated by the Russian Reader. See the rest of Mikhail Zakharov’s photoreportage here. For more information on the Russian Central Bank’s recent crackdown on insolvent banks, see Evgeniya Pismennaya and Gregory White, “Russia’s Central Banker Is on a Tear,” Bloomberg Markets, February 14, 2017. Thanks to Sean Guillory for the heads-up on the Bloomberg article

 

Tatarstan’s Zelenodolsk District: Pay Your Rates or We’ll Take Your Kids

Aerial view of Zelenodolsk, Tatarstan. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Aerial view of Zelenodolsk, Tatarstan. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Children Removed from Families of Utilities Debtors in Tatarstan
Natalia Vasilyeva
Vechernyaya Kazan
January 12, 2017

Alexander Tygin, head of the Zelenodolsk District, has instructed his subordinates to remove children from families who have gone into debt for nonpayment of gas and electricity bills. Vechernyaya Kazan has obtained a copy of the relevant document, whose harsh wording could make even the most hard-boiled reader shudder. No one in Tatarstan has yet taken such a radical approach to solving the problem of poor families whose homes and flats are threatened with having their electricity shut off in wintertime due to unpaid utilities bills.

“The children’s protective services of the Zelenodolsk Municipal District executive committee should be ready to remove minor children living in dwellings in debt for energy bills,” read the official instructions, signed by Alexander Tygin after a staff meeting on December 12, 2016. Short and to the point, as they say. Readers are free to interpret the instructions as they fancy. Will the children be removed forever from the families of debtors or only for the winter, keeping the minors from freezing in houses in which the heating has been turned off or burning to death in a fire? According to our information, in December, two children from families of debtors in the Zelenodolsk District were taken into care.

Copy of Alexander Tygin’s instructions. Courtesy of Vechernyaya Kazan

The problem of families in persistent default on their payments for utilities and housing services became a serious matter in January 2016, after the tragedy in the village of Staryi Kuvak in the Leninogorsk District, in which 27-year-old Olga Zhuravlyova and her five children, aged six months to ten years, burned to death in their own home. It was discovered the gas supply to the house had been turned off since August 2013 without a court order, and the family had been heating the house with electric heaters and a wood stove, the cause of the tragedy. In addition, it transpired the Zhuravlovs had earlier been registered as a vulnerable family, but shortly before the tragedy they have been removed from the registry.

At the time, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov harshly criticized district officials for “short-sighted actions” and ordered the republic’s government to improve how it worked with vulnerable families in debt. After the tragedy in the Leninogorsk District, around 300 families whose gas and lights had been turned off due to debts were identified.

According to Guzel Udachina, ombudsman for children’s rights in the Republic of Tatarstan, a year on, the president’s orders have not been forgotten at the local level.

“Since last winter, the republic’s towns and districts have worked systematically to identify problem families and restructure their debts,” said Udachina, noting, however, that she did not have statistics for the oversight work.

As Vechernyaya Kazan discovered, the Leninogorsk District checks on a quarterly basis whether families with children have payment arrears.

“We regularly ask the billing center who has large debts. If someone’s debt has reached the critical mark, our social services go into action. They work on getting non-paying parents into employment, restructuring their debts, and searching for sponsors,” said Vladimir Druk, the Leninogorsk District’s deputy head for social issues.

According to the executive committee, there are currently around thirty large families in the Leninogorsk District who have defaulted on their housing and utilities payments. By law, energy companies can cut off hardcore debtors whether they have children or not. But our sources in the executive committee say they have an agreement with gas and electricity suppliers that if they decide to cut off a family with small children, they will inform the authorities in advance, giving them the chance to intervene quickly. Hence, matters had never come to taking children into care, the same sources assured us, telling us the story of a mother with four children who, due to debts and a broken gas furnace, found themselves in an unheated house during December’s cold snap. The woman was warned she would have to take action or she could lose her children. She quickly took the children to their grandmother’s. Meanwhile, the gas furnace was repaired for free, and philanthropists helped to partly pay off the family’s debts.

Our sources at the Zelenodolsk District executive committee told us they had registered around a hundred families with minors who had defaulted on their housing and utilities payments.

“During 2016, eleven children from such families were removed for up to three months,” said Alexander Korshunov, head of the press office for the Zelenodolsk District executive committee. “All these children lived temporarily in a shelter. Would it have been better to leave the kids in houses with no light or heat, where they were not getting the proper care? It is unacceptable for children to live in such conditions. The head of our district is quite strict when it comes to protecting minors. Therefore, our children’s protective services vigilantly check all familiies.”

“Just yesterday, I visited in a family in the village of Nizhnye Vyazovye who had defaulted on their gas payments. I suggested assigning the children to a shelter for the winter so the kids would be well feed and warm,” Ludmila Minnigarayeva, head of children’s protective services in the Zelenodolsk District executive committee, shared with Vechernyaya Kazan.

In turn, Tatarstan children’s ombudsman Guzel Udachina explained that arranging for children to live temporarily in a shelter or social rehabilitation center is permitted only with the written consent of the parents, not on the basis of an arbitrary decision by children’s protective services or by order of a district head.

“The orders issued by the head of the Zelenodolsk District are inappropriate, to put it mildly,” Udachina argues. “If it turns out the district’s children’s protective services have been removing children from families due to debts, their actions are illegal. The state has the right to take the children into care only in instances where there is a threat to their lives and health. It is a moot point whether having the gas or lights turned off can be considered a direct threat. If a dwelling is unheated during a cold snap, there is such a threat, of course. The child could freeze, become ill or worse. But local authorities can solve the problem without resorting to extreme measures.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Russkaia smert’ and Meduza for the heads-up

Is It Hard Being a “Foreign Agent” in Russia?

Viktor Voronkov
Viktor Voronkov

Is It Hard Being a Foreign Agent in Russia?
Vadim Shuvalov
Gorod 812
August 8, 2016

How does an organization officially declared a “foreign agent” manage? Gorod 812 asked Viktor Voronkov, director of the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) in Petersburg, what it has been like.

Did you expect to be declared a foreign agent?

On the one hand, after Bolotnaya Square, it was no surprise. On the other hand, we have never believed what we do is political activity.

Some Ph.D. in philosophy did the forensic examination on us for the Justice Ministry. I won’t repeat the stupid things he wrote. We have gone through four court trials. Recently, the Supreme Court reimbursed one of the fines we had to pay, in the amount of 300,000 rubles.

We were labeled a foreign agent, allegedly, for making recommendations on how to improve the work of magistrates, doing research on the political preferences of trade unions, and advertising a book (which we didn’t publish) on political movements in Russia.

Similar allegations have been made against us to this day.

What has changed in your work since you were declared a foreign agent?

Four times a year, instead of once a year, we write a financial disclosure report. We have to hire a specialist to help us write it. Any violation results in an “irredeemable” fine of 300,000 rubles from the Justice Ministry. But we don’t know we violated.

The Women of the Don Foundation, which deals with gender issues in the North Caucasus, has suffered because of us. It was declared a foreign agent only because we sent them 10,000 rubles out of a sense of professional solidarity, to help them pay a fine. Now we are trying to explain to the authorities the money was Russian in origin.

We cannot work with state universities and officials. We cannot do fieldwork in schools, hospitals, etc. Business is afraid to help us; it is afraid of reprisals. As for the populace, when people find out who we are, they are immediately put on their guard, and the conversation becomes stiff.

I once got a call from a major public radio station. They told me they were putting me on the air in two hours. I warned them that CISR was a foreign agent. They said it was not a problem. Half an hour later, a young woman called me and said her bosses had decided not to trouble me: they needed a cultural studies person, not a sociologist. All electronic media are now closed to us.

Recently, the Justice Ministry redefined political activity.

According to one part of the new definition, all sociological research is classified as political activity, while another part claims that scientific and scholarly research is not political activity. So sociology is no longer scientific and scholarly research.

So how do you do your work nowadays?

For example, we have been researching temporary сohabitation among migrant workers. They support each other while having families back home. Such research requires so-called participant observation. First, you help the migrant worker out. You take him or her to the doctor, get their kid into a kindergarten, and invite them over to your place. Only then will they tell you what they really think about the world they live in. It might take years to get to that point. Whose agent you are, in this case, matters not a whit.

As for working with officials and civil servants, now everything is based on off-the-record interviews.

Initially, when you opened in 1991, did you work with the state? Whose agents were you then?

We were the agents of Boris Yeltsin and his folk. We were interested in working on topics relevant to the country: grassroots movements, Russian nationalism, the new gender studies. A social revolution was underway, and values were being revised.

Did you get money from the government?

We would sometimes participate in grant competitions and get a few crumbs. The times allowed for completing the research were paltry, and the financial reporting was complicated. But we were not fundamentally opposed to taking money from the government. That became a hard and fast principle sometime in the early 2000s.

Why?

We ran up against corruption, against demands for kickbacks and rigged outcomes. The Smolny [Petersburg city hall] would send us invitations to grant competitions, but we quickly realized they had already picked the winners. Or they would ask us to do research on topics like “The Danger from Muslim Migrant Workers in Petersburg.” But we are researchers and don’t do appraisals. We are interested in how migrant workers integrate, in the issue of xenophobia. We gave up on public financing.

What is the size of the usual private grant, and how much time does a study take?

No less than a year or two, often as many as three years. The budget for a study of this sort comes to about three million rubles or more.

Do the foundations who subsidize you set conditions?

The foreign foundations set only one: the research has to be academic research, serious scholarship involving participant observation, and not just getting people to fill out surveys and quickly summarizing the results. By the way, I should note that [only] one out of fifty sociology department graduates goes on to become a serious researcher.

Russian foundations require self-censorship. We did work in Tatarstan: the republic’s president must not be disturbed by the research outcomes. We agreed to censor ourselves. We were interested in finding out why young people were leaving Tatarstan.

And why are they leaving?

It’s a nationwide problem: ours is an avuncular society. If you are outside this circle, you won’t get a good education and you will not be able to set up your own business. All this is highly developed in Tatarstan. There are confessional issues within Islam to boot. Given the circumstances, young people leave the republic or join “extremists.” We recommended an amnesty for certain religious groups that do not call for violence.

We had just finished this study when we were declared a foreign agent.

How have the foundations themselves reacted to your foreign agent status?

Some foundations, even ones with whom were on very good terms, have parted ways with us. They are afraid of being put on the list of undesirable organizations that will be cut off from all official contacts with Russia.

On the other hand, we have received offers of assistance from foundations we had never heard of before. That has been nice.

Why do western foundations finance academic research?

The conscience of the capitalists has awoken or they are unhappy with their own offspring.

What Soviet value has been forfeited in vain?

It’s a pity people have stopped reading. But this is a socialist value. Under capitalism, in new technological circumstances, it could not have survived.

Translated by the
Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of CISR