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RFE/RL: Rights Groups Say Muslims Are Unfairly Targeted

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  • Jeremy Putley
    Russia: Rights Groups Say Muslims Are Unfairly Targeted In Fight Against Terrorism By Claire Bigg Muslims and human rights campaigners in Russia joined forces
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2005
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      Russia: Rights Groups Say Muslims Are Unfairly Targeted In Fight
      Against Terrorism
      By Claire Bigg

      Muslims and human rights campaigners in Russia joined forces today
      to denounce what they describe as a persistent campaign of
      harassment and detentions targeting Muslims in the country. Growing
      numbers of ordinary Muslims, they say, are falling victim to the
      government's bid to show successes in fighting terrorism in the wake
      of the Beslan hostage tragedy.

      Moscow, 31 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian government is
      fabricating cases against Muslims in order to prosecute them for
      terrorism, leading Russian human rights campaigners charged today.

      Vitalii Ponomarev, an activist at the rights group Memorial, told a
      press conference that 39 Muslims have been sentenced on terrorism
      charges since the beginning of this year across Russia, the Caucasus
      excluded. Dozens more are awaiting trial.

      The first wave of terrorism charges brought against Muslims began
      soon after the hostage tragedy in Beslan in September 2004, a trend
      that rights activists say is gaining pace. Ponomarev alleges that
      torture is routinely used to beat false confessions from Muslims.

      "Torture is used in about 40 percent of cases to obtain confessions.
      A new tendency is the fabrication of group cases. It is announced
      that large underground terrorist organizations have been uncovered.
      The most scandalous case, which has yet to reach court, is taking
      place in Tatarstan, where more than 20 people are charged with
      allegedly preparing terrorist attacks ahead of the millennium in the
      city [of Kazan, the capital]," Ponomarev said.

      The rights groups say that defendants are, as a rule, accused of
      having ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic organization that
      Russia outlawed in 2003 as terrorist group. Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to
      establish a caliphate in Central Asia, but formally rejects
      violence. Russia's Federal Security Service, however, accuses the
      group of supporting separatist rebels in Chechnya.

      Mars Gayanov, a 53-year-old Muslim from Bashkortostan, told
      reporters that Russian special forces in December raided his house,
      where they allegedly found Islamic extremist literature and homemade
      bombs. Gayanov denies hiding either bombs or extremist literature.
      He said law-enforcement officials tried to beat confessions out of

      "The interrogations started. On 1 January 2005, after lunch, I was
      transferred to another cell where they tried to beat confessions
      from me that I was a member, and even the leader, of a particular
      division of the so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir party -- by beating and
      torturing me. Neither I nor my sons are members of this party,"
      Gayanov said.

      The fact that Gayanov was beaten while in prison has been officially
      established. He was given a suspended sentence, but his two sons
      were sentenced to five years and 7 1/2 years in prison.

      Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the rights group Civil Assistance,
      said the Russian government is rounding up Muslims in an attempt to
      make it appear that it is actively combating terrorism.

      "Politics are currently aimed at channeling popular dissatisfaction,
      which is always possible if there is some kind enemy," she
      said. "The enemy is once again the United States, and we also need
      an internal enemy. The internal enemy is chosen because it is
      different and because someone is afraid of him. I am absolutely
      convinced that Islam and the Islamic caliphate are a phobia of the
      president of the Russian Federation."

      Gannushkina said she has personally heard President Vladimir Putin
      make negative comments about Islam and accuse Muslims of plotting to
      establish a caliphate in Russia, particularly in Chechnya.

      Rights groups also accuse the Russian government of illegally
      allowing Uzbek security officers to operate on Russian territory and
      to detain Uzbek nationals allegedly involved in terrorist activities.

      Uzbek troops violently suppressed an uprising in the city of Andijon
      in May, which they blamed on Islamic radicals. Since then, Uzbek
      authorities have been seeking the extradition of suspects from
      Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

      Gannushkina said many alleged Uzbek terrorists have already been
      illegally transferred to Uzbekistan, although the Council of Europe
      and the European Union have denounced any such extraditions. "There
      is a very clear agreement -- the falsification of legal cases
      testify to this -- between the highest-ranking people in Russia and
      in Uzbekistan, according to which people whom the Uzbek government
      requests are sent to Uzbekistan," she said.

      In June, 14 ethnic Uzbek were arrested in the central Russian city
      of Ivanovo at the request of Uzbekistan for allegedly participating
      in the Andijon uprising. All but one are in detention awaiting
      extradition, despite efforts by lawyers and human rights groups.
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