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“Tablighi Jamaat” and “Khizb-i-Tahrir”: Intelligence agencies staff quickly build careers in such affairs - Ponomaryov

November 02, 2017 00:33 0 1711
At the beginning of October started in Crimea the first arrests on charge of belonging to “Tablighi Jamaat”, according to Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Until these arrests, we knew nothing about this organization, how and why it was banned in Russia, nor about the perspective of these trials. Today’s discussion relates to this topic.

  • The overall nature of Tablighi Jamaat, its type of organization, where and how it works. Have you heard anything about Tablighi in Crimea?

Tablighi Jamaat is an international missionary movement (here “missionary” refers to the word “davat”, the call to Islam), uniting millions of followers in the world. This movement has arisen from the Indian-Pakistani region in the 1920s. Its members follow particular organizational traditions and regularly go to others regions and countries to spread propaganda on fundamental Islam. During these journeys, the members usually live in mosques, explain the values of the Koran, the prayers, the call, Ramazan… There was not any mention of political questions nor interreligious disagreements in these sermons. This movement has no membership nor specific organizational hierarchy. After the disintegration of the USSR, the movement was active in various regions of Russia, central Asian countries, Caucasus, Crimea… In some of the post-soviet countries, the authorities pursued it, in others (Kyrgyzstan) so far it benefited from the support of the official mufti.

  • When and why has extremism been recognized in Russia? Which are your assumptions, were there actual reasons to ban TD and others movements in Russia? Are the motivations or analysis that created a basis for the decisions forbidding TD’s and others movements’ activities available?

A decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of May 7, 2009 enforced the ban in the frame of the procedure introduced by the so-called “antiterrorism legislation”. The text of the decision (less than 3 pages) has not been officially published, but is available on several legal sites, with materials of the corresponding criminal cases. This ban motivated a serial of statements without any supporting evidence, for instance, that the purpose of this movement is “the establishment of world supremacy” and “global caliphate”, that its activity “threatens the interethnic and interfaith stability in the society”, that “Al-Qaida” and “Talibans” allegedly consider this movement as “a pool of resources” and so on. I will not comment here the full text in details. I will focus on a particular assertion : as has shown our research, the judicial authority’s statement about “Tablighi Jamaat”’s connection with terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan is based on a falsified translation into Russian from the English publication, where the translators “added” material absent from the source document, but needed by the Federal Security Service. This is an obvious falsification of evidence base. However, the process was not open, and it was impossible to express an alternative point of view in the Court. “Tablighi Jamaat”’s ban triggered the one of two important books distributed by the movement’s followers. It is currently forbidden to translate “Hadisov elites” and of part of “Fazali Amal” into Russian.

  • Are there any attempts to appeal these decisions and to change this extremely flawed antiterrorist legislation? Is there any improvement perspective in these regions’ legislation?

There was an attempt to appeal the Supreme Court decision, but in one of the cases I was familiar with, the substance of the appeal was not examined. Regarding the overall evolution of the antiterrorist legislation, contrary to the Russian Federation authorities’ promises, after 2012 it mainly changed towards stiffening the penalties. Russia is already beyond Uzbekistan in this regard… In August, the European Court published a joint complaint of five Russian Muslims pursued after TD ban.

  • For Russian authorities, what exactly means TD followers’ extremism and “Khizb-i-Tahrir” activists’ terrorism?

Extremism in Russia has such a broad interpretation… If you express positive feelings related to your beliefs, you always risk to be charged of promoting “religious exclusiveness and supremacy”. However, if you, for instance, speak negatively of the Last Judgment or talk about the prosecution of Muslims by the authorities of remote China, it will be “rabble-rousing”. Regarding KhT “terrorism”, no formulation of the Russian Federation Supreme Court decision can explain this organization’s qualification. The decision on TD on one hand mentions that they were allegedly involved in terrorist actions in several countries, but at the same time, there is no question of the terrorists themselves. Overall, it is more a question of politics than of truth.

  • To what extent are the acts of KhT and TD similar? Which other communities are exposed to prosecutions?

The penal prosecution mechanism is similar: in nearly all cases, the evidence base consists in doubtful testimonies of “confidential witnesses” and secret audio and video recordings, which must be interpreted by “experts” linked to the Federal Security Service. The possibility of alternative experts’ assessments is very limited as well… There are also some distinctions related to the lack of membership in TD, their non-participation in discussions of any political subjects, etc. I already discussed the fact that penal prosecutions of Muslims in Crimea will not be limited to KhT in a 2014 interview. Not long ago the Crimean “Tabligi” was subjected to prosecution, within a year it will be “Ricale-i-Nur” readers’ or “Takfil bal Khijdra” mystics’ turn, and then again someone else will be designated… Intelligence agencies staff quickly build careers in such affairs.

  • Tell us about the most widespread infractions during court sessions and during the investigation procedure. In such cases, the investigation usually does not have defendants’ statements with appeals to seizure of power, violence or arousing hostility. What does the prosecution use as evidential base? Does it appeal to experts in similar trials, and who are they?

There are, obviously, many kinds of violations… There are places, for example, where judges would refuse to call experts for interrogations… In some regions, particularly in the Volga region and in North Caucasus, torture is widely used. In some cases, we hear about fabricating evidence or provocation… However, this is not the main problem. What is more important is that the antiterrorist legislation in Russia serves as a means of political repression, thanks to which you can be charged according to doubtful official certificates with little connection to reality. And this mechanism will demand new victims until it is stopped. Today, in most cases the investigation does not even try to prove exhortation to violence nor seizure of power. The attention focuses on proving the belonging to a forbidden community, real or imaginary. The defendant is told: the Court has already stated your organization as terrorist (extremist), we do not need to reflect upon it. We are only interested in the proofs or your participation in that community. And these evidences are sometimes simply absurd. In one of these cases, the expert stated that in the defendant’s written preaching there was nothing radical, but that his own frequency on leaving for the call and his use of words taken from Urdu during his speech were “extremist”, since they matched the practice of a banned organization. In another case, the expert wrote that anyone using the terms “Davat” or “Zayarat”, widespread in the Islamic community, was a member of “Hizb ut-Tahrir”. In addition to that, the judge resorts to the fact that the expert possesses an academic degree and that no one can doubt his objectivity.

But what can you tell? In such pseudo-expertise, conducted as requested by the FSS, the availability of different points of views in the scientific field is generally overlooked. The experts appointed by the investigation often write that the defendant “spread the ideology of this banned organization”, but at the same time either can't pinpoint specific features of this ideology, or state that nearly any Muslim can be labeled as "extremist".

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