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Disabled and gravely ill Crimean Tatar political prisoner denied medication

30.04.2019
Halya Coynash

There is no reason for Edem Bekirov to be held in detention in Russian-occupied Crimea, and no justification for killing him through brutal treatment yet this is exactly what the Russian occupation regime seems intent on doing.  The 58-year-old amputee with a heart condition and diabetes is receiving only insulin, with no attempt being made to check Bekirov’s blood sugar level.  Attempts by his family to get other medication and a blood sugar level tester to him have been thwarted for well over a week, and his lawyer, Islyam Veliliaev, warns of a grave deterioration in his condition.

Bekirov is being held in the ‘medical unit’ of the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison].  There is no official refusal to pass him medication, but each time his daughter has tried to submit the medicine and blood sugar tester,  she has been told that the doctor and paramedic are not there.  The staff who take other parcels are not allowed to receive medication without a medical worker’s signature.

CrimeaSOS spoke with a doctor who warned that in the present circumstances Bekirov could fall into a diabetic coma, either from a too high or a too low blood sugar level. Proper treatment of his condition is impossible without information about his blood sugar level, and there is a real risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, which happens when the body starts running out of insulin.  This is an extremely dangerous condition with his life in immediate danger, since the cardio-vascular system begins to shut down.

This is particularly dangerous in Bekirov’s case. He suffered a major heart attack in 2018, and now has four cardiac shunts to regulate blood pressure. 

Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Ludmila Denisova reported back in February that Russia is simply lying about Bekirov’s condition, claiming it to be ‘satisfactory’.

Such brutal disregard in the face of potentially life-threatening conditions is especially cynical in Bekirov’s case since Russia is accusing him of actions he would physically be incapable of carrying out.  

In addition to his serious heart condition and diabetes, Bekirov also moves with difficulty, as he has had one leg amputated.  He has the most serious disability status, and, even according to Russian legislation, should not be held in detention at all.

Russia is simply ignoring this, as it is the sheer absurdity of the charges against him.   Bekirov lives in Novooleksiyivka (Kherson oblast) with his wife, who is a member of the Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatar people.  Russia has, incredibly, banned the latter and is flouting a direct order from the UN’s International Court of Justice to withdraw the ban.  Nor is this the first occasion where it has targeted members of the Mejlis or, in this case, a close relative and concocted criminal proceedings against them.

Bekirov was seized by the FSB on 12 December, 2018, when he tried to cross into Crimea to visit his elderly mother and other relatives. He was held incommunicado until well into the evening, and without food or water until the ‘court hearing’ the following day that ordered his detention for two months.

He was not on any ‘wanted list’ and the FSB’s behaviour was already thoroughly illegal.  They then came up with grotesque accusations. 

The 58-year-old, who walks with difficulty and swiftly gets out of breath, has been charged with circulating and transporting more than 10 kilograms of DNT and 190 bullets ((under Article 222 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code).  According to the FSB’s ‘secret witness’ whom they call ‘Memetov’, Bekirov passed the explosives and bullets – all 14 kilogram worth - to him in May 2018. Memetov purportedly placed them in a secret hiding place around Krasnoperekopsk and then in August revealed this place to the Russian FSB and gave testimony against Bekirov.

The ‘court’ has been told and given evidence to confirm that Bekirov could not even lift a 1.5 litre bottle without difficulty and could not have survived any effort to draft such a huge weight. 

The FSB and the ‘courts’ are also refusing to consider Bekirov’s alibi which debunks the testimony of the FSB’s anonymous ‘secret witness’  

A formal complaint over this was lodged by lawyer Alexei Ladin back in December 2018.   There is plenty of real and identifiable witness testimony to confirm exactly where Bekirov was at the time that an ‘anonymous witness’ claims he was transporting 14 kilograms of explosives which he couldn’t have lifted. 

The FSB ‘investigator’ Ivan Romanets has made it quite clear that none of this is of any interest, and all Russian-controlled ‘courts’ have gone along with this, obediently extending Bekirov’s imprisonment and effective torture.

The apparently senseless brutality makes it difficult not to agree with the Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov’s assessment of the real motive behind Bekirov’s imprisonment.

“They are killing him so demonstratively to make the point to every Crimean Tatar that if the Russian occupiers torture a person as frail as Bekirov is, just think what they’ll do to a relatively healthy person if he ends up behind bars.."

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