Crimean law enforcement officers target a Mejlis activist
The Crimean Prosecutor’s Office has brought charges of resisting the police against the Head of the Secretariat of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Zair Smedlyaev. Over the case initiated after a rally of Crimean Tatars in 2006, he could face 4 years imprisonment.
The Prosecutor’s Office says that he is accused of taking part in mass disturbances and resisting the police. The criminal investigation dates from 2006 yet the Prosecutor’s Office reanimated it a few months ago, and has brought it to the courts extremely quickly.
The Head of the Secretariat, who is considered Refat Chubarov’s right hand man, is alleged by the Prosecutor’s Office to have taken part in a picket on 22 June 2006 outside the Crimean Court of Appeal. A group of Crimean Tatars had been charged with attacking and beating journalists from several television channels, as well as visitors to the Simferopol bar, the Cotton Club, in 2003.
After it was announced that due to lack of space, nobody could come in, there were disturbances and people tried to force their way in, leading to scuffles with the police, resulting in several of the latter, apparently, receiving injuries.
There has been no official response from the Mejlis. Zair Smedlyaev told Radio Svoboda that he sees a political and ethnic subtext to the Prosecutor’s Office’s actions.
“I view this criminal investigation as politically commissioned. It is an attempt to intimidate the entire Crimean Tatar people, all ordinary people of the Crimea so that they don’t try to counter lawlessness, especially over land matters. So that they can without obstruction continue siphoning off land and setting one ethnic or religious group against another”.
Zair Smedlyaev says that this is also about the authorities preparing to remove the permanent picket by Crimean Muslims at the place where they are planning to build a Soborna (Assembly) Mosque which the authorities have now prohibited. He is the formal organizer of this picket which has been continuing for four years.
Analyst from the Crimean Independent Centre of Political Researchers, Yan Synytsyn believes that the case against Zair Smedlyaev is mainly aimed against the First Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov. It is he whom the leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement for decades, Mustafa Dzhemilyev, plans to hand over the leadership to. Yan Synytsyn suspects that the authorities have other candidates in mind who would be more loyal and amenable to them.