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Ukraine charges judges with treason over persecution of Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Ilmi Umerov

26.11.2020
Halya Coynash

Ukraine’s Crimean Prosecutor has passed to the court an indictment against a turncoat ‘judge’, involved in Russia’s politically-motivated persecution of Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader, Ilmi Umerov.  This is the second such indictment with the first against Andrei Sergeevich Kulishov who, on 27 September 2017, handed down a two-year sentence, despite preposterous charges; a falsified transcript of the interview Umerov had given; and the latter’s very serious health issues.

The Crimea and Sevastopol prosecutor informed on 24 November 2020 that the charges, sent to the court, are against a former judge of the Bakhchysarai District Court of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, under Article 111 § 1 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code (state treason).  Their investigation has established that after Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, the individual betrayed his oath of allegiance to Ukraine and began working for the illegally-formed ‘courts’ of the aggressor state.  In his work, “he provided aid to a foreign state in carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The accused also “took a direct part in carrying out the policy of the occupying state aimed at persecuting Ukrainian citizens who oppose the occupation of the peninsula. The said ‘judge’ illegally applied Russian legislation, for example, during consideration of ‘administrative protocols’ drawn up against one of the leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people”.  

If convicted, the individual could face a sentence of 12 to 15 years.  The same applies to the other individual against whom the prosecutor has laid charges. On 22 October 2019, the prosecutor announced charges against the ‘judge’ who had passed sentence on Umerov.   Kulishov was not named, and described only as a former judge of the Simferopol District Court.  ‘Former’ is quite correct since the Russian-controlled body by that name, which Kulishov still works for, is in breach both of Ukrainian, and international, law and not a legitimate court.

The prosecutor’s office then announced that they had proof of the ‘judge’s’ violation of the right to a fair trial as set out in Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (on the protection of civilians in time of war) and Article 75 § 4 of the Protocol to this Convention over persecution of a pro-Ukrainian activist for an interview he gave in which he spoke of the need to return to Ukraine Crimea and the occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.  On 12 August 2020, it was announced that the ‘judge’ was being charged with state treason.

While Crimea remains under Russian occupation, the charges may seem theoretical since any trial of Kulishov and the individual from Bakhchysarai would have to be in absentia.  They do, however, make it possible to place them on the international wanted list, and mean that they face arrest if they appear in mainland Ukraine or attempt to travel to most other countries.

Ilmi Umerov is one of three Ukrainians (together with journalist Mykola Semena and activist Suleyman Kadyrov) living in Crimea who were convicted on absurd charges of making so-called ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity” for calling Crimea Ukraine and opposing Russia’s occupation. There were no such ‘public calls’, even according to Russian legislation, in the interview given by Umerov on March 19, 2016, during which he had said the following, with respect to international sanctions:

“If they all together strengthened, broadened and deepened sanctions, if in this way they forced Russia to give up Crimea, and leave Donetsk and Luhansk, if we returned Ukraine’s borders, after that the influence of these international organizations would be stronger. “

The prosecutor falsified this, but even the version presented in ‘court’ contained no ‘public calls’, nor could they have been to action infringing ‘Russia’s territorial integrity’ when the position taken by Umerov is that shared by the UN General Assembly; OSCE, EU and all democratic nations. 

Yet on 27 September 2017, Kulishov sentenced 60-year-old Umerov, who has multiple serious illnesses, to two years’ imprisonment, and also  prohibited him from engaging in any public activities for two years. 

Umerov had ended his final address to the de facto court on September 18 by noting that traitors were putting patriots on trial, and promising that he would meet all of those implicated in this case at the international courts at the Hague. 

Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Mejlis and political prisoner since 29 January 2015, were released  on 25 October 2017, as part of a three-way agreement between Ukraine, Turkey and Russia.  Although there was reported to be no formal ban against them returning to occupied Crimea, this has not happened, presumably because both Mejlis leaders would immediately be arrested again. 

There are strong grounds for believing that the price Moscow demanded for the release of the two world-renowned Crimean Tatar leaders was the freedom of two suspected Russian state killers, arrested in Turkey and charged with at least one political killing in that country (details here).

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