After spending five years in jail, Russian political prisoner Azat Miftakhov was meant to go free on September 4. Instead the mathematician and anarchist was told in late August he would be formally charged with “incitement to terrorism”, opening the possibility he could remain in prison for at least another two to five years.
First detained in 2019, Miftakhov was found guilty of “hooliganism” and sentenced to 6 years’ jail in 2021 for allegedly breaking a window at an office of the ruling United Russia party.
His sentence was later reduced and about to expire, when it was reported on August 25 that Miftakhov now faces a new charge based on allegations he expressed approval of the bombing of a Federal Security Services (FSB) building that occurred in 2018.
In response, protest actions were organised in various countries on September 2.
Miftakhov’s case has drawn support from a wide range of groups due to his achievements in the field of mathematics. This includes from the International Mathematical Union and the Ukrainian, American and London mathematical societies, among other such societies, as well as the Russian higher education staff trade union, University Solidarity.
About 3500 mathematicians from around the world have put their names to an open letter in his support and a petition initiated by the France-based Solidarité FreeAzat committee has been signed by intellectuals and politicians such as Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Zizek, the late David Graeber and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Calling for his release, the petition notes: “Each day [Miftakhov’s] ruthless imprisonment continues serves as an example of what might happen to those who would raise their voices in Russia and express anything different from the official line of the Russian Federation since its involvement in the war in Ukraine began.
“The Russian Federation, by starting the war against Ukraine, bears responsibility for the risk of a general escalation. We, supporters of peace, believe that the fight for freedom of opinion and expression for the Russian people, and more generally in all the countries engaged in this war, is a key prerequisite to finding a way out of this situation for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.”