Liliya Saidova, a native of the Russian republic of Chechnya, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for ‘financing terrorism’. She claims she only meant to send money to help her younger brother living in Turkey, who had asked her for financial assistance.
The Second Western Military District Court in Moscow found Saidova guilty on 28 May.
Saidova’s lawyer, Suleyman Ibragimov, told OC Media that his client ‘does not deny’ she had transferred money to an account number provided by her brother, Magomed Saidov. But Ibragimov has insisted that she had ‘no intention’ of financing terrorism — she had only responded to her brother’s request for financial assistance.
He added that in his view, a motive of ‘financing a terrorist organization’, was ‘not proved in court.’
Ibragimov emphasised that the prison term handed down to Saidova was the minimum for the crimes she was charged with. He is currently preparing a complaint to the court of appeal as he considers the verdict ‘illegal and biased’.
Ibragimov told OC Media that, in November 2018, Saidova was detained in Chechnya during a special operation conducted simultaneously in Moscow, Chechnya, and Daghestan. Another six people, in addition to Saidova, were arrested for financing terrorism.
After 11 months, four of the seven detainees were released due to lack of evidence.
According to the indictment, Liliya Saidova transferred ₽94,000 ($1,365) in 2016 and $2,600 in 2017 to her younger brother Magomed. Liliya has said that she and her family believed that Magomed was living in Turkey at the time.
Liliya’s mother, Bela Saidova, said in an interview with Dosh magazine that her youngest son, Magomed, a student at a university in Moscow, left the university and left for Turkey in 2016.
She said he told her that he was going to Turkey to get married, and that after he left Russia she and Magomed’s father tried to find him in Istanbul several times, to try to convince him to come back. They said they could not find him.
In June 2017, Bela Saidova said she received an SMS from an unknown number informing her that her son supposedly ‘died in Syria’. She has not heard any news of her son since.
An ‘absurd’ sentence
Liliya’s father, Sultan Saidov, told OC Media that he considers the court's decision to be illegal, as security officials did not carry out a fair investigation of the case because of his daughter’s ethnicity.
‘It is an injustice what they do to my daughter. They took and imprisoned a [single] mother of four children for helping her brother’, he said. ‘They saw that her brother went to Turkey, and they say that he is in Syria and [that] she knew about it, but we do not know where he is to this day.’
Saidov said that he has contacted the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, Tatyana Moskalkova, to help free his daughter. He said at first they promised to petition the court to have Saidova be moved under house arrest, but this was not done.
Oyub Titiyev, an analyst at Memorial, a human rights organisation, told OC Media that he considers Saidova’s sentence to be ‘absurd’ and reveals how repressive state mechanisms operate in Russia.
‘The sister sent money to her brother. There is no crime in this. If you pursue everyone who shares with criminals, then you need to imprison half of the country’, he said.
‘For example, if a pensioner receives a pension, buys weapons with this money and commits a crime — it turns out, you need to prosecute the pension fund.’