Crimean Tatar activist released, but still facing dodgy ’May 3’ charges


In the first positive move of an increasingly worrying criminal prosecution, Crimean Tatar activist Tair Smerdlyaev has been released from custody on a personal assurance.  Smerdlyaev’s lawyer Emil Kurbedinov informs that the change to a less drastic preventive measure was at the decision of the investigator.  Kurbedinov says that it was Eskender Byliapop, adviser to the president’s political representative on the Crimea who interceded on Smerdlyaev’s behalf.

Kurbedinov believes that the same change in preventive measure could be applied in the case of the other men recently remanded in custody for two months.

Tair Smedlyaev was the third of four Crimean Tatars to be arrested over the last month on charges linked with the protest on May 3 at the Armyansk crossing between the Kherson oblast and the Crimea.  On that occasion around 5 thousand Crimeans, most Crimean Tatars arrived at the crossing to greet veteran Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev.  The latter had arrived by car from Kyiv after the Russian authorities imposed the ban they had previously denied issuing on Mustafa Dzhemiliev entering his homeland, now under Russian occupation. 

The protest was essentially peaceful although the occupation regime had sent large contingents of OMON riot police and other enforcement officers and were obviously set on confrontation.  The 71-year-old Crimean Tatar leader together with Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis or representative body of the Crimean Tatars, decided that Mustafa Dzhemiliev would return to Kyiv to avoid possible bloodshed. 

That move did not prevent numerous administrative charges and interrogations over the events on May 3.  Over recent months ‘investigation’ into the events of that day has been cited as accuse for armed searches of Crimean Tatar homes, mosques and religious schools.  Then 6 months later arrests began over supposed injuries inflicted on a police officer which had never been mentioned before.

Musa Alkerimov was arrested on Oct 16 and Rustam Abdurakhmanov a day later.  Then on Oct 22 Tair Smedlyaev, brother of the head of the Central Election Commission of the Qurultay, or Crimean Tatar National Congress, was arrested in Stary Krym while he was driving with two sons, one only three and a half years old. 

Two days later Smedlyaev was remanded in custody for two months, as had been the first two people arrested.  Then on Nov 25 Edem Ebulisov was arrested and soon remanded in custody for two months.

As reported here, the closed detention hearing in Smedlyaev’s case was especially disturbing.  The Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights reported that the judge had based the ruling on the prosecution’s claim that 60 people had asserted that Smedlyaev was an ‘extremist’.  There was apparently also a statement from the Crimean ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’ which claimed that Smedlyaev is also a member of the Ukrainian nationalist organization ‘Right Sector’.

This had nothing to do with the charges of ‘using violence against a representative of the authorities’. 


Halya Coynash

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