The Azat Miftakhov Committee renews its appeal to the international mathematical and scientific community for the support of Azat Miftakhov. This call is made more urgent by the recently confirmed information that the FSB is currently in the process of fabricating a new criminal case against Azat, which may result in an additional lengthy prison sentence for him.
Azat Miftakhov, an opposition pro-democracy activist in Russia, was originally arrested by the FSB on February 1, 2019 in Moscow. Except for a brief few hours release on February 7, 2019, he has remained imprisoned since then. At the time of his arrest Azat Miftakhov was a mathematics graduate student in the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of the Moscow State University. Azat was charged in relation to the January 2018 political protest at an office of the United Russia party in Moscow that came to be known as the “broken window” case. While in pretrial detention, Azat was extensively tortured by the guards in the attempt to extract a false confession. The premier Russian human rights organization “Memorial” recognized Azat as a political prisoner, and his case attracted widespread attention, both in Russia and internationally. Azat has always maintained his innocence of the false charges against him.
From the time of his February 2019 arrest, numerous mathematicians, scholars, and mathematical societies have expressed support for Azat and called for his freedom.
After multiple delays, Azat’s court trial took place in Moscow in the Fall of 2020. The trial was marked by numerous human rights violations, including the prosecution’s use of “secret” government witnesses and of testimony of a prosecution witness who died in 2020 while in prison. In a grotesque abuse of justice, on January 18, 2021 the court in Moscow found Azat guilty of “hooliganism” and sentenced him to six years imprisonment in a penal labor colony. Azat is currently serving that sentence at a colony in Omutninsk.
While imprisoned, Azat became a key symbol of the struggle against the brutal oppression of Putin’s regime and for democracy and freedom in Russia. Azat’s bravery and steadfast determination, in the face of torture, intimidation and unjust imprisonment on false charges, continue to inspire many. That role became even more vital after Putin unleashed a bloody fratricidal war on Ukraine in February 2022. Since the start of the war, the Russian government’s suppression of any type of dissent and opposition in the country has grown ever more brutal and complete. People like Azat, who continue to stand up to this oppression, provide hope and inspiration to all those fighting for a free, peaceful and democratic Russia.
For that reason the Russian authorities continue to view Azat as a threat. Azat is currently scheduled to be released on September 23, 2023. However, as we recently reported, it appeared that the FSB was preparing to fabricate a new criminal case against Azat. Unfortunately, this information has now been confirmed, according to multiple news reports that directly quote the FSB itself. Even though Azat has been imprisoned for over four years, the FSB is apparently planning to accuse him of being a member of the so-called “Network” anti-government group, an umbrella charge that the Russian government has been using to persecute numerous opposition activists. Reports indicate that the FSB has extracted coerced false testimony against Azat from at least one other prisoner whom they were interrogating at the infamous Lefortovo prison in Moscow. If convicted on these new fabricated charges, Azat would face a much longer additional prison sentence, likely in even harsher conditions. According to Azat’s family, Azat is aware of these developments and is preparing to face them.
Azat Miftakhov is our mathematical colleague and a courageous and admirable young man. Even while being imprisoned, he continued conducting mathematical research and published a new mathematical research article in 2021. Azat’s conviction in January 2021 on false charges represented a blatant case of political persecution and abuse of justice by the Russian authorities. Any additional prosecution of Azat would be even more outrageous and intolerable. At this fraught and difficult moment, we call on the international mathematical and scientific community to renew their support for Azat Miftakhov. Azat needs and deserves our help and solidarity.
We continue to demand Azat’s immediate and unconditional release.