Trial of Mejlis activist ends


Zair Smedlyaev  (Photo: Radio Svoboda)

Another criminal prosecution of concern to human rights groups has ended after a trial lasting 14 months with the conviction of the head of the Secretariat of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Zair Smedlyaev. Mr Smedlyaev was charged with active participation in group infringement of public order (Article 293 of the Criminal Code) and resistance by a group, without prior conspiracy to police officers carrying out their duties (Articles 28 § 1 and 342 p 2).  The organization Avdet reports that the court found Smedlyaev guilty and sentenced him to 4 months imprisonment (arrest) on the first charge and 5 months arrest on the second.

Zair Smedlyaev did not acknowledge any guilt. This, he says, was viewed by the court as a means of defence and attempt to escape liability. The court also negatively assessed the testimony of witnesses given during the investigation, and did not take the arguments of the defendant and his defence into consideration.  He was, however, freed from serving the sentences due to a time bar, and the signed undertaking not to abscond which he was under was revoked. He was ordered to pay court expenses of just over 2 thousand UAH, and 120 UAH in compensation to Serhiy Chigrin.

Zair Smedlyaev does not agree with the verdict and plans to appeal.

As reported in December 2010, the case against Zair Smedlyaev concerned events from back in June 2006.  In 2010 a criminal investigation was reanimated over a rally of Crimean Tatars, and suspiciously swiftly brought to the court.

The Head of the Secretariat, who is considered Refat Chubarov’s right hand man, was accused by the Prosecutor of having 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.

In December 2010 Zair Smedlyaev told Radio Svoboda that he saw 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”.

At that time Yan Synytsyn, analyst from the Crimean Independent Centre of Political Researchers suggested that the case against Zair Smedlyaev was 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.

New information from the Mejlis website

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