Russian ‘political prisoner’ refused UK visa

05 May 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas


A former Russian political prisoner is to appeal after being refused a UK visa to come to Britain to work on a research project at Oxford University.

Zara Murtazalieva, from Chechnya, was jailed for almost nine years on terrorism charges.

But she failed to reveal the nature of the charges – which her supporters say were trumped up – on her UK visa application. As a result, the application was rejected.

Ms Murtazalieva was accused of planning to blow up a shopping centre in Moscow in 2004.

Human rights groups say that explosives were planted in her bag by security services who then arrested her. Since her release from a penal colony in the Mordoviya region of Russia two years ago, she has been living in political asylum in France.

Oxford University invited her to the UK to work on a project studying ethnic minorities in Russia’s penal system. This included a five-day workshop.

Project leader Dr Judith Pallot said she was disappointed by the Home Office’s decision and called on it to think again.

Because her visa application was turned down, Ms Murtazalieva cannot now make another UK visa application for 10 years, although she does have the right to appeal against the decision.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she explained why she had not admitted to the terrorism charges on her visa application.

She said: “I explained that the prosecution was a fabrication and that I was given the status of a political prisoner by rights groups in 2005. They said they knew about this but accused me of being a liar.”

Ms Murtazalieva’s case caused an international outcry when she was arrested as a 20-year-old student in Moscow. Her conviction is currently being appealed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases when asked why Ms Murtazalieva’s visa application had been turned down.