Crimean Tatar National Congress delegate seized and beaten on anniversary of Ervin Ibragimov’s abduction
Asan Egiz, delegate of the Qurultay [National Congress] of the Crimean Tatar people, was abducted on 23 May by men in police uniform. This was a chillingly brazen repeat of the abduction and disappearance exactly two years ago of another prominent Crimean Tatar Ervin Ibragimov with the only difference being that Asan Egiz was, thankfully, found, beaten, but alive.
Egiz is in hospital and has explained that his car was stopped by men in police uniform near the village of Pionerske in the Simferopol region. He was forced into their car and driven away on the floor of the vehicle, with a bag over his head and his hands bound behind his back. His abductors then beat him up before leaving him in a forest, near a petrol station on the road between Simferopol and Bakhchysarai.
For several hours there was no information as to Egiz’s whereabouts. With thoughts already sombre on the eve of the second anniversary of the abduction near Bakhchysarai on 24 May 2016 of another young Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov, anxiety was intense.
Lawyer Nikolai Polozov calls this the latest act aimed at terrorizing the Crimean Tatar people and points out that this is not the only such abduction apparently carried out by Russian-controlled enforcement officers. In March this year, Abdullah Ibragimov was abducted and beaten, in February – Fakhri Muratov, son of a member of the Crimean Tatar Qurultay. Back in September 2017, Renat Paralamov was savagely tortured after being seized by masked men who turned up at his home and carried out what they called ‘an inspection’. The masked men did not identify themselves, but two of them had FSB [Russian security service] insignia which they tried to conceal after a large number of neighbours and friends gathered. Further confirmation that they were from the FSB was effectively provided by the police who had been called by the Paralamov family. After talking to the masked men, these police officers silently retreated into the background and later followed them in leaving.
Paralamov was beaten and subjected to electric shocks and other forms of torture before being abandoned at a coach station in Simferopol (details here).
Polozov recommends personal safety measures “in conditions of occupation”, with these including trying not to travel alone and publicizing information about all illegal activities by Russian enforcement officers.
The danger should not be underestimated. Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis [representative assembly] suggested after Paralamov’s abduction that it was only thanks to the publicity both within Crimea and beyond that Paralamov had been tortured, but at least not killed.
The same was probably true of the attempt to abduct human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku in April 2015. His assailants clearly not nervous when a crowd gathered and the attack and abduction turned into an ‘FSB search’. Kuku was arrested on different fabricated charges on February 11, 2016, and remains imprisoned to this day.
Just over a year after the aborted abduction of Kuku in broad daylight, 31-year-old Ervin Ibragimov, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, was abducted late in the evening by men in road patrol uniform from near his home in Bakhchysarai.
Despite video footage showing the abduction, the Russian occupation regime effectively never carried out a real investigation, which has only heightened the suspicion that enforcement officers or paramilitary organizations were responsible.
The attempt by lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, acting on behalf of Ibragimov’s parents, to force an investigation via the courts has so far ended in failure. Kurbedinov’s legal suit against the investigators’ failure to investigate was first rejected in March 2018 by Kievsky District Court ‘judge’ Viktor Mozhelyansky, who has gained notoriety for politically-motivated rulings under Russian occupation. On 15 May, Mozhelyansky’s rejection of the law suit was upheld by the Russian-controlled ‘Crimean High Court’. Kurbedinov notes that the investigators provide answers only to the court, and claim falsely to have responded to his formal requests for information, though he never received any answer.
During the earlier hearing in March, it became clear that any imitation of an investigation had been terminated in September 2017. Formally terminated, that is, since the investigation had only ever been largely symbolic. According to Umer Ibragimov, the law enforcement bodies carried out some investigative actions during the first months after his son’s abduction. He assumes that this is because of his insistence and says that for 20 months now, nothing has been done at all.
Ervin Ibragimov had reported being followed during the week before his abduction. He had spoken to his father late in the evening on May 24, but then failed to return. His car was found the next morning fairly near his home with the key in the ignition and door open. CCTV footage was obtained from a shop nearby which shows Ibragimov being stopped by men who appear to be in road patrol uniform. You can see that the young man obviously understood the danger and tried to flee, but was seized and pushed into the van which drove off in the direction of the Bakhchysarai Reservoir.
Two years later, the occupation authorities held an ‘official’ version of the Crimean Tatar Spring Festival Hyderlez in the very place where Ibragimov was abducted. The festival was effectively taken over in 2015 and is now considered by many Crimean Tatars to be used by Russia for propaganda purposes.
Ibragimov’s father went to the FSB immediately after finding the abandoned car, but they refused to even register the abduction. An ‘investigation’ was initiated only after a large group of people gathered outside the FSB offices – an act that requires courage under Russian occupation.
The FSB then tried to refuse to receive the CCTV footage and Umer Ibragimov says that they had to send it formally to them, with the delivery recorded.
Ervin Ibragimov’s parents recently appealed for the second time to President Petro Poroshenko, asking him to ensure that all measures are taken to find their son and to take the case under his personal control.
It is certainly important that the Ukrainian authorities initiative all necessary measures, regardless of whether they are realistically able to influence anything in Crimea under occupation or not. Among other things, this is required for an application to the European Court of Human Rights. The right to life, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights obliges member states, including both Russia and Ukraine not only to protect life, but also to fully investigate any cases of violent death, abduction or enforced disappearances.
There are grounds for suspecting the occupation regime’s direct involvement in this abduction, via enforcement officers or the paramilitaries initially used to help Russian soldiers seize control in Crimea. Such reasons include the men’s uniforms, the reluctance to investigate and shameful attempts by the then de facto ‘prosecutor’ Natalya Poklonskaya to even pretend that Ibragimov had been seen alive, that the uniformed men had nothing to do with the enforcement bodies and / or that the abduction was an act of provocation, aimed at destabilizing the situation in Crimea.
Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea brought both enforced disappearances and open abductions to the peninsula. There is, in fact, no information about the fate of 17 people abducted in occupied Crimea. According to Eskender Bariev, member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, in almost all cases, the occupation regime is doing nothing to investigate, even though the youngest of the Crimean Tatars abducted – Islam Dzhepparov - was just 19 when he was abducted on September 27, 2014, together with his 23-year-old cousin Dzhevdet Islamov. In that case too there were witnesses who could even identify the dark blue Volkswagen Transporter into which the two young men were forced, before being taken away.