Moscow’s Golovinsky District Court sentenced graduate student and anarchist activist Azat Miftakhov to six years in prison on Monday, January 18, after finding him guilty of attacking a United Russia office in 2018.
Miftakhov, who studied in the mathematics faculty at Moscow State University, pleaded not guilty to the hooliganism charges.
Two other suspects who earlier pleaded guilty in the case were given suspended sentences: Elana Gorban was sentenced to four years probation and Andrey Eykin to two years.
These were the exact sentences that state prosecutors requested for the three defendants in the case.
Miftakhov’s lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina said that they plan to challenge the verdict.
According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, a number of activists were arrested near the courthouse during hearing, including Pussy Riot member Rita Flores, Dmitry Ivanov — who runs the Telegram channel Protestny MGU, activist Marat Vakhitov, and Nikita Zaytsev — an aide to former Moscow City Duma Deputy Oleg Sheremetev.
On the night of January 31, 2018, unidentified figures broke a window at the ruling party’s office on Onezhskaya Street in Moscow and threw a smoke grenade inside. No one was hurt during the attack, but the smoke grenade damaged a section of the office’s flooring. A year later, in February 2019, Azat Miftakhov was arrested on suspicion of making explosives, but the courts refused to jail him citing a lack of evidence. Miftakhov was later detained in connection with the arson attack on the United Russia office.
Miftakhov’s defense lawyer argued that the only evidence state prosecutors have are the testimonies of two secret witnesses, one of whom is dead, while the two other defendants in the case deny Miftakhov’s involvement in the attack. Eykin even said that he doesn’t know Miftakhov.
Following his first arrest, human rights defenders reported that Azat Miftakhov’s body showed signs of torture: they recorded a screwdriver mark on his chest and a bruise on his ear. The Russian Investigative Committee declined to open a criminal case on the use of violence.
According to state investigators, the defendants in the case belonged to an anarchist movement called the People’s Self-Defense, which is associated with a 2018 terrorist attack on the FSB building in Arkhangelsk.
Hundreds of academics from around the world, including well-known philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, signed an open letter supporting Miftakhov. The Russian human rights group Memorial also declared him a political prisoner.