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Jailed Russian Mathematician Afraid Of Being Denied Parole Release

Jailed mathematician Azat Miftakhov (file photo)
Jailed mathematician Azat Miftakhov (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A noted young mathematician from Russia's Tatarstan who was sentenced to six years in prison on hooliganism charges that he and his supporters have rejected, says he would not be surprised if he is turned down for early release on parole for resisting attempts by prison officials to "correct" his pleas of innocence.

In a letter to his wife Yelena Gorban, Azat Miftakhov wrote that prison authorities refuse to believe his claims of innocence and fears they will use that, and any minor violations of prison protocol to keep him in the Kirov region's Correctional Colony No. 17, which is known as one of the toughest prisons in the country.

Miftakhov, 28, was sentenced to six years in prison in January after a court in Moscow found him guilty of involvement in an arson attack on the ruling United Russia's 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 that he will be eligible for parole in about six months, but fears prison authorities will find a way to block his early release.

"I may face any number of moves [by the administration] to deprive me of my release. They can file a reprimand against me for some minor thing, such as an unbuttoned uniform, and that will be enough," the letter, shown to RFE/RL by Gorban on August 31, says. He did not say if he had been reprimanded during his stay.

The mathematician said that all of his books were confiscated upon his arrival at the penitentiary earlier in August, with guards saying they "had to check the contents."

After he arrived at the colony, Miftakhov informed his wife that he was ordered to do what he called "hard labor," namely to load sawdust onto trucks in a wood-processing facility.

After Gorban raised the issue of her husband's situation in the penitentiary, the prison administration changed his work task, ordering him to load wood boards on trucks instead of sawdust, which Miftakhov called "a much easier job."

Miftakhov was first arrested in early 2019 and accused of helping make an improvised bomb found in the city of Balashikha near Moscow.

He was released several days after the initial charge failed to hold, but was rearrested immediately upon his release and charged with being involved in the attack on an office of the ruling United Russia political party in January 2018.

The Public Monitoring Commission, a human rights group, has said that Miftakhov's body bore the signs of torture, which the student claimed were the result of investigators unsuccessfully attempting to 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 assist in Miftakhov's release.

In June, the American Mathematical Society urged Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, Lisa Peterson to include Miftakhov's issue in the agenda of a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin that was held on June 16 in Geneva.