February 28, 2024

A Mathematician in Prison. Again


A Mathematician in Prison. Again
A political action in support of mathematician Azat Miftakhov at the building of the General Prosecutor's Office in Moscow. Natdemina, Wikimedia Commons

In September 2023, a court in Kirov arrested Moscow State University mathematician and postgraduate student Azat Miftakhov under charges of "justifying terrorism." The day before, Miftakhov had been released from the penal colony where he was serving a sentence.

At the court hearing to select a preventive measure, the investigator said that Miftakhov, "being an active participant in the terrorist organization, carried out propaganda of terrorism among the convicts."

The case against Miftakhov is based on the testimony of two prisoners and a third classified witness. The mathematician allegedly said, while in the penal colony, that he "will take revenge" for the death of his friend who died defending Ukraine from the Russian invasion, spoke about the need to "blow up the FSB officers," and also that "the war with the occupiers must be waged not only in Ukraine but also in Russia." In addition, according to investigators, Miftakhov allegedly approved the action of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who attacked Arkhangelsk's FSB department.

According to the investigative outlet Proekt, the Article of the Criminal Code "on the justification of terrorism" is one of the main repressive tools the Putin regime is employing. Over the past six years, from 2018 to 2023, 1,560 people have been tried under it.

It is also noteworthy that one of the witnesses in the case, Rufan Gadzhimuradov, was released after testifying. Gadzhimuradov was sentenced to prison for twenty-six months for robbery and beating a woman. After his testimony, he was released after serving just six months in prison.

Miftakhov was detained on September 4,  at the exit from the colony in Omutninsk, Kirov Oblast, where his friends, wife, and mother were waiting for him. "I don't even know why they're doing this to him... We talked a little, and I asked him: 'Is it true that they won't let you go?' He says: 'Mom, this is all made up.' I don't know what to think. Apparently, they are afraid of him," Miftakhova's mother told Idel Realiy reporters.

In the colony, Miftakhov was serving a criminal sentence under articles covering "hooliganism." According to investigators, he was among those who broke the window of the Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia, the largest political party in the country) offices in Moscow. At the same time, the accusation is based on the testimony of a secret witness who recognized Miftakov a year later by his "expressive eyebrows," and Miftakov himself says he was subjected to severe torture by officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB.

Miftakhov, recognized as a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Rights Center, was a graduate student at the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of Moscow State University and participated in libertarian socio-political movements.

In prison, Miftakhov became an honorary doctoral student at the University of Paris-Saclay and was invited to come to Harvard to continue his research. At the end of May 2023, Azat Miftakhov said that, due to pressure from the security forces, he found himself in the lowest caste of the prison hierarchy, where he was burdened with additional work, and other prisoners treated him with great disdain. To transfer him to this caste, the FSB used intimate photographs against Miftakhov, passing on information to prisoners in the colony where he was serving his sentence.

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