Daghestani woman who returned from Syria sentenced to 8 years in prison

14 March 2018
Muslimat Kurbanova

Makhachkala’s Sovetsky District Court sentenced Muslimat Kurbanova, 25, to eight years in prison on Monday for ‘participation in an illegal armed formation’. Kurbanova, who returned from Syria last October, is to serve her sentence in 13 years time, when her daughter turns 14.

Kurbanova arrived in Grozny with her three-months old daughter on 21 October, on a chartered flight from Syria. The flight was arranged by Chechnya’s representative to the Middle East, Ziyad Sabsabi, and brought back seven women and 14 children aged between three months and 10 years old, from the city of Hmeimim.

All three Daghestani women on board have now been convicted of ‘participating in an illegal armed formation’. Naida Shaykhakhmedova was sentenced on 16 january to four and a half years ‘restriction of liberty’ (restrictions to her movement) while Zagidat Abakarova, 33, was sentenced to eight years on 15 February. Both will also serve their sentences when their children reach 14.

Kurbanova’s mother, Amatulla Kurbanova, told OC Media her daughter was detained on the day of her return.

‘As soon as we left the arrival hall in the general hall of the airport, a young man approached us. He introduced himself as Magomed, said that he was from the Centre for Combating Extremism, and said we could take the children away, but that the women are being taken to the Sixth Department [the Department for Combating Organised Crime]’, she said.

[Read also: Voice from Makhachkala | ‘Mum, we are not in Turkey, but in Syria’]

The investigation into Muslimat’s case lasted for five months, only going to court in March

Caucasian Knot quoted relatives of Kurbanova as saying the verdict was too harsh, and that they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court to have the sentence reduced.

While ‘participation in an illegal armed formation’ is illegal under Russian law, a person ‘who voluntarily ceases participation in illegal armed formation and surrenders weapons’ is cleared from criminal liability if no other crimes were committed.

Daghestan’s Human Rights Commissioner Kheda Saratova told OC Media that the women voluntarily surrendered to authorities immediately upon landing — a mandatory procedure. Women from other regions of Russia who also returned from Syria and Iraq have since been released.

‘Prison will not fix them’

Kheda Saratova, a member of the Human Rights Council under the head of Chechnya, told OC Media the imprisoning of Daghestani women returning from Syria ‘is an outrage’.

‘Outrage because the law of the Russian Federation in different regions of the country works in different ways. And it depends on those people who must today observe this law. I'm sure of one thing: prison will not fix these women. It would be better if they were helped somehow to be rehabilitated’.

According to Saratova, of all the returned women — including several dozen from different regions of Russia as well as in other countries — it is only those from Daghestan who are being prosecuted.

Saratova claimed the prosecutions had angered Chechnya’s Middle East representative Ziyad Sabsabi. ‘I don’t want to bring these women from one hell to another’ she quoted him as saying.

‘He told me he is ready to come [to Daghestan] and testify on their behalf in court. He is not indifferent to the fates of these children and their mothers’, she said.

‘There was huge work done, so these people did not become citizens of a, one might say, enemy country, which would turn them into time bombs. It was better that they all returned and stayed under the supervision of our authorities’, Saratova concluded.

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