Prisoner of Conscience: Azat Miftakhov, Russia
Police searched the dorm room of Azat Miftakhov, a Russian mathematics student and anarchist activist, in February 2019.
Initially he faced charges on assisting to make an improvised explosive found a month earlier in Balashikha, a town near the Russian capital Moscow. Later the student told his lawyer that security agents had beaten and tortured him with a screwdriver to confess to a crime he said he did not commit. Human rights advocates also saw and documented marks of torture on his body.
A few days after his arrest, Miftakhov was released due to lack of evidence, only to be detained again a few hours later in connection with another incident. This time police claimed that Miftakhov had been involved in an attack on an office of United Russia, the country’s ruling party. In January 2018, unknown perpetrators broke a window and threw a smoke grenade inside the party’s office in Moscow. While police detained several suspects, some of whom pleaded guilty, they were later released and the investigation was suspended. The case was reopened following Miftakhov’s arrest and he was charged with hooliganism. If convicted, Miftakhov faces up to five years in jail. According to investigators, a secret witness confirmed that the student was present at the night of the incident. Curiously, in October 2020 the witness could not testify in court because he had died, said prosecutors, quoted by local media.
Miftakhov denies all the charges and says that he has been prosecuted because of the anarchist views.
Since Miftakhov’s arrest, a wave of rallies took place in Moscow to protest his detention. In July 2019 graduates and students of Moscow State University, where they young man studies, staged a rally in his support and called for his release. They also placed a huge sign that read “Free Azat” in front of the university building. Russian human rights center Memorial has recognized Miftakhov as a political prisoner.
In January 2021 a Moscow court sentenced Miftakhov to six years in prison. The verdict could be appealed.
Disclaimer: As of March 31, 2021, research shows that Azat Miftakhov has been sentenced to six years in jail.
Prisoners of Conscience from East and Southeast Europe
We feature select few prisoners of conscience out of the many in East and Southeast Europe. One political prisoner is one too many.
Find out who the other political prisoners are #PrisonersofConscience #FreeThemAll and in the special Focus on our website.