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02.06.2015

Crimean Tatar gets 4-year suspended sentence in notorious ‘May 3 case’

   

24-year-old Musa Abkerimov is the first person to be tried on dubious and belated charges in connection with the meeting on May 3, 2014 when up to 5 thousand Crimean Tatars travelled to the Armyansk border crossing to meet Mustafa Dzhemiliev.  The 71-year-old veteran Crimean Tatar leader had been prevented from flying to Simferopol the previous day, giving the lie to officials’ de,  after a five-year ban on Dzhemiev  ebterubg  Critcism of UPA, etc

According to Abkerimov’s lawyer Dzemil Temishev, the young man could have been sentenced to a real time of imprisonment of up to 10 years.  Presumably for that reason on his Facebook page he called the sentence “fair”, noting that the court had taken all extenuating circumstances into account.  The prosecutor’s office asserted that Abkerimov had “admitted guilt and repented”.

Musa Abkerimov was found guilty of using violence against a Berkut special unit officer in a police cordon near the Armyansk border crossing.  The charge was under  Article 318 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (applying violence dangerous for health against an official while the latter was carrying out his or her duties).

As reported, on May 3 the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (representative assembly) cancelled the traditional Spring festival because of the ban on Mustafa Dzhemiliev and asked Crimean Tatars to come instead to the Armyansk crossing to meet him and escort him into Crimea. 

They were confronted by Russian OMON riot police and Crimean ‘police’, including, apparently, ‘Berkut’ special units.

It was decided that Dzhemiliev would return to Kyiv in order to avert bloodshed.  The only actual ‘offences’ reported at the time were that roads were blocked. Dzhemiliev recently said that the Crimean prosecutor had also accused people of illegally crossing the border, and pointed out that according to both Ukrainian and international law the said border is an administrative border between parts of Ukraine.

The following day Poklonskaya sent two reports to the Russian Investigative Committee and FSB “for the organization of criminal prosecution in connection with unlawful public protests” by Crimean Tatars in Armyansk.   She also issued Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatars with a warning that the Mejlis could be dissolved, claiming that the protest was “action of an extremist nature”. 

A Crimean Human Rights Field Mission spokesperson reported that around 200 people had been fined between 10 and 40 thousand roubles on administrative charges (an ‘unauthorized rally’ and ‘not obeying the police’). 

The arrests began six months later, in October over supposed violence against police officers – none of which had been reported at the time.  All men were initially remanded in custody for two months.  The men arrested included Crimean Tatar activist Tair Smedlyaev who was stopped while driving with his two sons, one of whom was only three and a half, and taken into custody.  The judge was reported to have based the detention order 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’.

For a long time it appeared that the Crimean authorities were planning to use the so-called May 3 case as a remake of the Russian Bolotskaya Square prosecutions of anti-Putin protesters on May 6, 2012.   There were constant armed searches of Crimean Tatar homes, interrogations and other repressive measures.  In fact, however, the main focus has now moved to the ‘Feb 26 case’ which is quite unprecedentedly cynical, pertaining as it does to a demonstration that took place under Ukrainian rule and law.   It seems likely that the reason for this new politically motivated case was to attack the Mejlis.  As reported here, the first arrest was of Akhtem Chiygoz, the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, and highest ranking Crimean Tatar leader since both Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov were banned by Russia from their native Crimea  (more details here)

Halya Coynash

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