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New offensive against wife of Crimean prisoner of conscience sentenced to 12 years for converting to Islam

30.11.2020
Halya Coynash

Plain-clothed ‘officers’ turned up at the home of Anna Bogacheva on 28 November, demanding that she write ‘an explanation’ , probably regarding her religious views, and  threatening her with worse treatment when she refused.  This new visitation only confirms the suspicion that Bogacheva’s husband, Vadim Siruk, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, was targeted by the occupation regime as an ethnic Ukrainian convert to Islam.

Bogacheva told Crimean Solidarity that the man and woman, who did not identify themselves and were not in uniform (or in masks, despite the pandemic), turned up on 28 November. They did not conceal the outrageous reason for their appearance, telling Bogacheva that there was a ‘Crimean Interior Ministry’ order to work on ‘converts’.  They told her not to worry, that this was just ‘questions’, and demanded that she get in the back of their car, asking at the same time if she were in any religious organizations.

Bogacheva fortunately refused to get into the car and immediately contacted a lawyer.  On the latter’s advice, she asked to see the documents on the basis of which they were asking their questions.  They produced a document from the ‘Crimean Interior Ministry’.  This mentioned “some kind of measures, and a list of converts [‘neofity’] from different regions”.  She saw her own name, that of her husband, and two names that she did not recognize. Either the officers genuinely did not know that Siruk is imprisoned, or pretended not to know.  

After she refused to write a so-called ‘explanation’, “the officers said that in that case Interior ministry [i.e. police] officers would come and talk with me”.  Lawyer Lilya Hemedzhi calls the officers’ actions both illegal and unacceptable, and notes that their parting words were a veiled threat. 

Both Bogacheva and Siruk converted to Islam – 31-year-old Siruk, when he was 20, Bogacheva, 9 years ago, during her studies.   The couple have been married for eight years and have two daughters, Amira and Khanife, who was born after her father was arrested.  Natalya Siruk is convinced that her son was arrested as a warning to other ethnic Ukrainians of what they could expect if they convert to Islam.  This certainly seems very likely, although it is also possible that he was arrested, together with human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku and two other Crimean Tatars – Muslim Aliev and Inver Bekirov – as an attempt to claim that the offensive on 11 February 2016 and Russia’s persecution in general are not specifically directed against Crimean Tatars. 

There are also strong grounds for believing that the arrests on 11 February 2016, and those, on 18 April that year, of two very young men – Refat Alimov (Bekirov’s nephew) and Arsen Dzhepparov, were also reprisals against men with a firm civic position who refused to collaborate with the occupation regime and Russian FSB. 

In his final address to the court on 8 November 2019 (over the appeal against his horrific 12-year sentence), Siruk gave a blistering assessment of the persecution that Russia had brought to Crimea. 

“I lived in what was once peaceful Ukraine, where nobody persecuted me for my peaceful views in peaceful Crimea.”   Then came “2014, the “referendum” and joining the Russian Federation. New reality for the Crimean Tatar people, for Muslims of Crimea, for Ukrainian activists and others who did not support the new regime and the policy it was carrying out of repression, killings, arrests, crushing of dissident thinking and the media.  All of that was in the style of Soviet politics, and even earlier of Tsarist Russia with respect to small ethnic groups and its own people!”

“Having found ourselves in prison, we – those who have been baselessly accused of terrorism – have clearly seen and understood the flagrant human rights abuses, the denigration of human honour and dignity; the primitive attitude to the health of prisoners; the openly biased attitude to those accused under Article 205 [‘terrorism’ charges – HC].  Living in Ukraine, I had earlier heard and read about all of that in the social media and on television, and then I saw it myself”.

“We lived side by side for almost 30 years, raised our children, worked together, went to schools, and so forth.  And everything was perfectly peaceful and tolerant, and there wasn’t even the suggestion of any terrorism.”

The real terrorists are those who burst into the homes of people peacefully sleeping, who intimidate people who tell the truth; those who have turned a resort peninsula into a military base, bringing in thousands of items of military technology; and those who persecute and imprison people for their political and religious views.”

The FSB ‘operation’ on 11 February, in which Ukrainian turncoat Alexander Kompaneitsev played an especially sinister role, was marked by particularly shocking brutality and cynicism.  Men in full riot gear and wielding machine guns burst into homes where young children had been sleeping, using gratuitous violence although nobody had shown any resistance.  Nothing illegal at all was found during any of the searches then, or on 18 April 2016, yet all six men have been imprisoned ever since.  

The six Ukrainians were effectively accused only of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim movement which is legal in Ukraine and most countries. The ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003 to declare it ‘terrorist’ was kept secret until it was too late to lodge an appeal and it has never been explained. 

Initially, only Muslim Aliev was designated the role of ‘organizer’ of a supposed ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir cell’, under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code, with this carrying a sentence of up to life imprisonment.  The other men were charged with ‘involvement’ under Article 205.5 § 2 with the sentences still appalling, but lower.  Then suddenly in August 2018, Bekirov was also charged as ‘organizer’.

By then, all six men had been charged additionally with ‘‘preparing for violent seizure of power by an organized group according to a prior conspiracy’ (Article 278).  This charge is reportedly used as a weapon against men who refuse to ‘cooperate’ – something that none of the Crimean Muslims has agreed to do, and is certainly not based on any evidence.  No weapons were ever found, nor is there any other proof that the men, all six of them, had any such plans.

Both the illegal use of Russian legislation in Crimea and the inexplicable ‘terrorism’ charges prompted the renowned  Memorial Human Rights Centre to recognize all six men as political prisoners long before sentences were passed. It pointed out that   “not only did the defendants not engage in terrorist activities, but they did not carry out any publicly dangerous activities at all”..  Amnesty International has recognized all the men as prisoners of conscience, and their release has been demanded by the UN General Assembly, European Parliament, and most democratic states..

Despite the evidently flawed nature of the trial and international outrage,  ‘judges’ Roman Viktorovich Saprunov; Dmitry Viktorovich Merkulov and Roman Vladimirovich Podolsky (from the Southern District Military Court in Rostov) on 12 November 2019,passed the six guilty verdicts required of them.  These were, on 25 June 2020, upheld by Oleg Aleksandrovich Yegorov; Aleksander Aleksandrovich Mordovin and Anatoly Valentinovich Solin.  All of these men, like the ‘investigators’; the ‘experts’; prosecutors and others were fully aware that the men had never committed any crime at all when they collaborated to sentence Muslim Aliev  and 55-year-old Inver Bekirov  to 19 years; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk to 12 years; Refat Alimov (28) to 8 years and Arsen Dzhepparov (29) to 7 years.  All of these sentences against innocent men involve ‘maximum security prison colonies’ where the conditions are exceptionally bad.  They are also imprisoned in Russia, thousands of kilometres from their families.

Please write to Vadim Siruk; Muslim Aliev; Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov and Emir-Usein Kuku!

The letters tell them and Moscow that they are not forgotten. Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer. 

Example letter

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 

Addresses (these can be in English or Russian, as below)

Vadim Siruk

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2  

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]

Muslim Aliev

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2 

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]

Refat Alimov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Enver Bekirov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2  

Бекирову, Энверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Bekirov, Enver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Emir-Usein Kuku

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Куку, Эмиру-Усеину Кемаловичу, 1976 г.р.   

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]

 

 

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