The Khizb ut-Takhrir Case: First Suspect Released from a Moscow Detention Centre
by Vitaly Ponomarev
22 January, 2013, at approximately 4:00 pm the authorities released the 33 year old Dagestani resident Mr Aigun Suleymanov from Moscow’s Lefortovo detention facility, the first of the seven men arrested on charges in a criminal case (#290940) regarding his and others involvement with Khizb ut-Takhrir, a political movement of Islamic ideology. It has been considered a terrorist organization by the Russian authorities, its activities banned. Others accused are also expecting the Court to consider their appeals regarding unlawful detention.
Mr Suleymanov’s release was made possible after changes to Russia’s Code of Criminal Procedure came into force December 30, 2012. According to the changes to Part 1, Article 108 (detention and arrest) of the Code, the preventive measure of pre-trial detention can be applied to suspects and accused of crimes whose punishment entails imprisonment for a term longer than three years, or in view of exceptional circumstances, such as the absence of a regular place of residence in Russia, failure to confirm identity, violation of a previous pre-trial ruling or attempts to flee from the preliminary investigation or the court.
On December 7, 2012 a Moscow Meschansky District Court prolonged to April 11, 2013 the detention of Mr Suleymanov and others accused under the Criminal Code Article 282-2, Part 1 (organization of activities of an extremist organization). Part 1 of the Article 282-2 prescribes a punishment short of three years of imprisonment.
However, on January 2013, the Moscow City Court having considered an appeal submitted by Mr Abusupian Gaitaev, a lawyer who regularly works with the HRC Memorial and the Civic Assistance Committee, sent the case back to the original district court, ordering Suleymanov’s detention term to expire January 22, 2013. On January 21, the Meschansky District Court reviewed the question of prolonging Suleymanov’s arrest. The Court decided to free the accused, having found unconvincing arguments of the prosecution and the FSB about exceptional circumstances, which may serve to substantiate holding the accused in detention during the investigation.
Immediately after his release Mr Aigun Suleymanov informed HRC Memorial of the details of his arrest and confinement. Suleymanov is a professional artist-jeweler, who has resided in Moscow for over six years.
According to him, on November 7, 2012 at approximately 6:00 am, the doorbell rang at the apartment his family rents on Generala Rychagova Street. The person who rang the bell said that he was the district police inspector, however it was visible through the door eyehole that there were many other people in the hallway. Aigun opened the door and saw a shield with blinding lights, in front of armed officers of special forces of the FSB with their faces covered.
“I told them right away that only my wife and two small children were home”, Suleymanov told us, “I came out to them in a t-shirt with my arms in the air. They verified that I was unarmed, and shielding themselves with me, they quickly inspected all the rooms, after which they carried out a search that lasted longer than four hours. Between themselves they said that they were preparing to come up against armed resistance.”
They invited two neighbours as witnesses, one of whom, when he saw that only books and computers were taken, left the apartment. He was replaced with an employee of the local maintenance service. Of all the books only Khizb ut-Takhrir were taken.
After the search Suleymanov was taken to the FSB where officials played out the famous scene with a polite investigator and his “angry” colleague. After an interrogation, close to 4:00 pm, the arrestee was led into the corridor where him and other suspects stood face to the wall for nearly six hours. “They did let us out to the toilette and let us perform our prayers (namaz)”, Aigun told us.
After two days of arrest in a temporary detention centre (IVS) on Petrovka Street, the Court decided to detain Mr Suleymanov until December 11, 2012 and he was put in the Detention Centre in Lefortovo. He didn’t complain about the conditions of his confinement. It was possible to do namaz, except when the charges were read in an FSB building did the investigator refused his this right.
The second interrogation took place approximately a week later. Mr Suleymanov refused to testify, and requested to admit his lawyer, hired by his relatives, to see him.
On November 15, 2012 he was presented with charges under Russia’s Criminal Code Article 282-2, Part 1. According to the decision on his indictment as a defendant, Mr Suleymanov took part in organizational and propaganda activities of the Khizb ut-Takhrir, an organization that’s illegal in Russia, as well as, according to the FSB, headed one of the “independently functioning covert and stable structural divisions, created on basis of religion and ethnic featuteres (dzhikhoz).”
Sometime after the 20th of November Mr Suleymanov was identified by two secret witnesses of Central Asian origin, audibly so from their speech. Such compliant migrant witnesses are often used by the FSB to gather necessary testimonies, since these witnesses risk being deported from Russia should they refuse to cooperate.
They claimed that the accused lead a gathering of Khizb ut-Takhrir and was also one of the organizers of an Islamic conference dedicated to the unification of Muslims, held at the hotel Ismailovo in Moscow and which took place on the occasion of the end of Ramandan. The conference had more than four hundred participants.
“My participation in this conference is no secret, I spoke there and video recordings of this can be seen on the Internet. However, this event was legal and sanctioned by the authorities”, Suleymanov clarified.
After being identified by secret witnesses, Mr Suleymanov was not invited to take part in any other investigative actions.
The FSB officials often said the accused shouldn’t hope for a couple of years jail term for extremism. They scared him, saying that “Twenty years are likely”, and “We’ll add the Articles 210 (organization of a criminal organization) and 278 (preparation of violent take over of power)”. In recent practice, unsubstantiated charges under the Article 278 were in fact presented in a case of Khizb ut-Takhrir in Chelyabinsk (http://www.memo.ru/d/135714.html).
The text of the indictment on these charges also alleges that the accused in the Moscow case had the goal of “creating conditions for violent take over of power… and change of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation”. However, the political decision to widely apply the Article 282 (which implies twelve to twenty years behind bars) against Islamic dissidents hasn’t been made in Kremlin.
Over all, according to Mr Suleymanov, an impression was made that the investigation doesn’t have enough materials to announce a discovery of a significant case, participants of which were convincingly presentable as “terrorists” threatening public safety.
Yesterday the FSB returned his passport to the journalist Mr Rustam Dzhalilov, who remains a suspect in the same case. In November 2012 Dzhalilov spent two days in a detention facility on Petrovka Street, and then released on his own recognizance.
Several suspects in the same case informed HRC Memorial that since November 9, 2012 no investigative actions were conducted with their involvement.