Nikita Zhuravel. Screenshot of the photo posted on the Telegram channel "Chechnya Segodnya" (Chechnya Today) on November 2, 2023

07 March 2024, 17:12

Experts assess chances of cancelling Zhuravel's sentence due version of burning Koran's interpretation

The appellate instance may review Nikita Zhuravel's sentence if it is confirmed that he had burned down not the Koran, but a translation of Koran's ideas; however, if he had intentionally insulted believers' feelings, no verdict is likely, experts have pointed out.

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on February 27, a court in Grozny sentenced Zhuravel to 3.5 years in penal colony, finding him guilty of violating the right to the freedom of religion, and of hooliganism.

According to investigators, Nikita stated that he had recorded a video with burning down the Koran at the direction of the Ukrainian special services and received money for that.

The version that Zhuravel was illegally convicted because he had burned not the Koran itself, but a translation of Koran's ideas made by a Shiite Ayatollah, was put forward by Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian politician and a former Ukrainian People's Deputy, in his Telegram channel with reference to a video posted in a Telegram channel of Russian nationalists. According to his version, Zhuravel "had burned down a translation of Koran's senses made by a Shiite author, included by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) into the list of extremist materials."

In the video of Zhuravel's burning the Koran, he is actually burning a semantic translation of the Holy Koran issued on 2020 (the work based on the tafsir (interpretation) earlier published in 12 volumes, the fourth of which is banned in the 2016 republished version). This book was not withdrawn from circulation, and is freely distributed.

The information that the book burned down by Zhuravel was not the Muslims' holy scripture, but only a translation of Koran's senses, could have helped him at the investigation stage, says Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the SOVA Research Centre*.

In the opinion of Rinat Mukhametov, an Islamic scholar, from the viewpoint of the Russian law, there is no fundamental difference whether Zhuravel had burned the Shiite version of the Koran's interpretation, or the Sunni one. "Because he had the intention of desecrating the Muslims' holy scriptures, and he himself admitted it," Mr Mukhametov has stated.

Besides, he believes that "there was nothing in Zhuravel's actions and confessions indicating that the act he had committed was aimed at combating extremist literature."

Burning a book, which may not be the Koran itself, but a piece of literature banned in Russia, may not constitute a crime as such and may lead to the verdict cancellation, Alexei Golenko, a lawyer from the Moscow Bar Association, believes.

If the convict had set out to insult believers, it doesn't really matter what exactly he had burned, Miki Arapiev, a lawyer, has noted.

*On August 17, 2023, the First Court of Appeal of General Jurisdiction approved the decision taken earlier in April by the Moscow City Court to liquidate the SOVA Human Rights Centre.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 6, 2024 at 07:33 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Author: Alikhan Mamsurov Source: СK correspondent

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