builder, civic activist
Parts One and Two of Article 205.5 of the Russian Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an organization recognized as ‘terrorist’ in Russia, namely the local cell of the Islamic Party of Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami)
Date of capture:
Jan. 23, 2015
15 years in penal colony
days in custody
Ruslan Zeytullaev was born in Tashkent on June 15, 1985. He resided in Orlyne (a part of the city of Sevastopol). He is a father of three young daughters. Ruslan was engaged in the intensive public activity.
In January 2015, FSB operatives conducted a search in Zeytullaev’s house. As an outcome, they confiscated all the kinds of data carriers (computers, CDs, and USB flash drives). Ruslan himself was arrested and accused of organizing the activity of the Islamic Party of Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami) in the villages of Orlyne, Tylove, and Shturmove (Sevastopol’s Balaklava district).
Ruslan has not pled guilty and refused to witness against himself during the investigation.
Prior to his arrest, Ruslan represented himself as a human rights defender. He believes he was targeted because of defending the rights of the fellow residents of his district.
On September 7, 2016, a military court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Ruslan Zeytullaev to 7 years in a penal colony. In July 2017, after the retrial, the Russian Supreme Court found him “guilty” of “organizing a terrorist community” and increased the prison term to 15 years.
The criminal case of Ruslan Zeytullaev and Ferat Sayfullaev (another Crimean Muslim from Sevastopol) was based on the reports of a former Ukrainian security officer Kozhemyaka who betrayed his oath and is now in Russian service. He started submitting them right after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The conflict between the future defendants and Kozhemyaka started back in 2012 and resulted from the corruption schemes of the local security authorities. Crimean Tatar community was allocated a plot for building a mosque. According to the lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, the security officers, including Kozhemyaka, also laid a claim to the plot. This suggests that Kozhemyaka had a personal motivation to accuse those Crimean Muslims.
Multiple violations took place in the course of the investigation:
- The court hearings regarding the extension of the preventive measure to Zeytullaev were not transparent. The audience was barred from entering the courtroom under various pretexts.
- The court violated the Zeytullaev’s right for defense by denying the presence of a public defender at the court hearings along with the lawyer.
- The court denied the access of the defense to the case materials that substantiated the prolongation of the detention term.
- The court dismissed the application of the defense on the disqualification of the judge filed on the basis of the abovementioned facts that point at his direct or indirect interest in the outcome of the case.
- The investigator did not provide the lawyer and the defendant with copies of the case materials. Thereby they were deprived of the possibility to file a relevant complaint and other rights guaranteed by Russian and international law.
- The investigator dismissed the application of the defense on the disqualification of the expert on the basis of his incompetence and bias.
- The investigation has kept secret the locations of the expertises, which contradicts Russia’s procedural law.
According to the independent Russian human rights media project OVD-info, members of the organization’s cells are accused and sentenced to various terms in a maximum-security colony only on the basis of meeting in apartments and reading religious literature.
According to the Memorial Human Rights Center, this wave of persecution in Russia began on 14 February 2003, when the Russian Supreme Court, having examined in a closed court hearing a civil case on the application of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, declared 15 Islamic organizations terrorist and banned their activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. One of the banned organizations was Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The motivation of the decision of the Russian Supreme Court does not contain any data on the terrorist activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in accordance with the definition of terrorism given in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law of the Russian Federation “On Combating Terrorism” of 7 March 1998, which is obvious grounds for declaring this decision unfounded.
Despite the fact that the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization has not carried out a single terrorist attack since its inception (1953), it has been recognized as terrorist in Russia and its members are unjustifiably tried as terrorists. The anti-extremist and anti-terrorism legislation of Russia is gradually turning into a repressive tool to combat dissent and peaceful assembly.