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Mathematician Azat Miftakhov arrested on terrorism justification charges a day after release from prison

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The Pervomaisky District Court in the Russian city of Kirov arrested mathematician and political prisoner Azat Miftakhov on September 5, according to a report by a Mediazona correspondent. The judge approved the state prosecutors’ request and remanded the mathematician to a pre-trial detention facility until November 3. The day prior, Miftakhov had been released from prison, where he had been serving time for a hooliganism case, only to be immediately apprehended and charged with a new offense.

During the hearing, the court reviewed case materials that included testimony from an undisclosed witness. This witness claimed that Miftakhov had expressed support for the explosion that occurred at the Arkhangelsk branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The prisoner’s fellow inmates also testified that the mathematician had discussed his intention to leave Russia. However, Miftakhov, in a conversation with his mother, vehemently denied ever discussing the FSB explosion.

On the morning of September 4, Miftakhov was released from the IK-17 penal colony in the Kirov Region. He briefly spoke with his family members who had come to meet him before being placed into an FSB vehicle and transported to Kirov. There, he faced charges of justifying terrorism under Article 205.2 of Russia’s Criminal Code and was then confined to a temporary detention facility overnight.

As per the investigation, Miftakhov allegedly expressed support for the actions of anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky while watching a television program with fellow inmates. In 2018, Zhlobitsky orchestrated an explosion at the Arkhangelsk branch of the FSB. This incident marks at least the 53rd case, according to the human rights project ROSshtraf, in which individuals have faced legal consequences for discussing this event.

Azat Miftakhov has been behind bars since February 2019. In 2021, he received a six-year prison sentence for his involvement in a case related to a smoke bomb incident at a Moscow office of the Kremlin’s ruling United Russia party. At the time, he was a postgraduate student pursuing an advanced degree in mathematics and harbored anarchist views.

Accounting for the time he spent in pre-trial detention, Miftakhov's sentence was set to conclude on September 4, 2023. However, in late August, it came to light that a new case had been filed against the mathematician, and he was added to Russia's list of “terrorists and extremists.”

Back in May, Miftakhov's wife, Yelena Gorban, informed the press that the FSB had distributed personal and intimate photos of him among fellow inmates. This tactic was employed to relegate Miftakhov to the informal caste of “outcasts” with the aim of making his prison life even tougher.

So-called «outcasts» occupy the lowest rung of the informal social hierarchy within Russian prisons. They are segregated from the general prison population and tasked with performing undesirable duties within the facility, including menial and unsanitary tasks. Furthermore, they are vulnerable to various forms of abuse, including sexual violence.

Memorial, the oldest human rights organization in Russia and a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has recognized Miftakhov as a political prisoner.

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