Imprisoned Russian mathematician fears being denied parole

MOSCOW — A well-known young mathematician from Russian Tatarstan, sentenced to six years in prison for hooliganism which he and his supporters rejected, says he would not be surprised if he was denied early parole for resisting attempts to jail officials to “correct” his pleas of innocence.

In a letter to his wife Yelena Gorban, Azat Miftakhov wrote that the prison authorities refuse to believe his claims of innocence and fear that they will use him, and any minor violation of prison protocol to keep him in correctional colony No. 17 from the Kirov region, which is known as one of the harshest prisons in the country.

Miftakhov, 28, was sentenced to six years in prison in January after a Moscow court found him guilty of participating in an arson attack on the ruling United Russia office in Moscow in 2018.

Miftakhov has denied the charges, which his lawyers say stem from his anarchist beliefs and support for political prisoners.

The mathematician says he will be eligible for parole in about six months, but fears prison authorities will find a way to block his early release.

“I can deal with any number of moves [by the administration] to deprive me of my release. They can file a reprimand against me for a minor thing, like an unbuttoned uniform, and that will suffice,” says the letter, shown to RFE/RL by Gorban on August 31. He did not say if he had been reprimanded. during his stay.

The mathematician said all of his books were confiscated when he arrived at the penitentiary in early August, with guards saying they “needed to check the contents”.

After arriving at the colony, Miftakhov informed his wife that he had been ordered to do what he called “hard labor”, namely loading sawdust onto trucks at a processing plant in the drink.

After Gorban raised the issue of her husband’s situation in the penitentiary, the prison administration changed his work task, ordering him to load wooden boards onto trucks instead of sawdust, which Miftakhov called of “much easier work”.

Miftakhov was first arrested in early 2019 and charged with helping to make an improvised bomb found in the town of Balashikha near Moscow.

He was released several days after an initial charge failed, but was re-arrested immediately after his release and charged with taking part in the attack on an office of the ruling United Russia political party in January 2018.

The Public Surveillance Commission, a human rights group, said Miftakhov’s body bore signs of torture, which the student said was the result of investigators trying unsuccessfully to find him. force him to confess to the bomb-making charge.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized Miftakhov as a political prisoner, while some 2,500 mathematicians from 15 countries have signed a letter urging the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) to help free Miftakhov.

In June, the American Mathematical Society urged Acting Assistant Secretary of the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lisa Peterson to include Miftakhov’s question in the summit agenda between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held on June 16 in Geneva.

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