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Prominent Bashkir Activist Sentenced To Nine Years In Russian Prison

Airat Dilmukhametov appears in court in Samara on July 14.
Airat Dilmukhametov appears in court in Samara on July 14.

SAMARA, Russia -- A Russian military court has sentenced a prominent opposition activist from the Bashkortostan region to nine years in a high-security prison on extremism charges.

The court in the city of Samara also banned the activist, Airat Dilmukhametov, from administering websites for three years in a case he has rejected as politically motivated.

Dilmukhametov, who was arrested in March 2019, was convicted of issuing public calls to violate Russia's territorial integrity.

The charge stems from a video statement he made in 2018 urging the creation of a "real" federation in Russia with more autonomous rights given to ethnic republics and regions.

Debates over ethnic rights and regional autonomy are especially sensitive in Bashkortostan -- with its sizable populations of Tatars, Bashkirs, and ethnic Russians -- particularly since President Vladimir Putin ordered an end to the ability of it and Russia's 80-plus regions, territories, and republics to mandate regional language instruction in schools.

Dilmukhametov was also found guilty of making public calls for extremism and supporting terrorism.

Those charges are linked to his criticism of regional authorities for incarcerating several Bashkirs on charges of belonging to a banned Islamic group and his public statements about a conflict between local residents and workers from Chechnya in the village of Temas.

Dilmukhametov maintained his innocence in his last address to the court on August 24.

His mother, who attended the hearing, called the ruling "unfair" and said her son was "not guilty of anything."

"How can a person be blamed if he has been fighting for democracy, freedom, [and] for the happiness of his native republic for many years?" Agilyash Dilmukhametova said.

The Moscow-based human rights group Memorial has recognized Dilmukhametov as a prisoner of conscience.

Dilmukhametov's lawyer, Aleksei Zakharov, has told RFE/RL that the case against his client was fabricated by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

The Supreme Court of the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan recently banned a group, called Bashqort, which for years has promoted Bashkir language and culture as well as equal rights for ethnic Bashkirs.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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