Russia targets Mustafa Dzhemiliev’s hostage son in revenge for Crimea Blockade
Khaiser Dzhemiliev, the son of exiled Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev, has been moved to a distant prison colony in the Astrakhan region of Russia. His imprisonment in Russia is already illegal, and his sudden move seems clear retaliation for his father’s involvement in the indefinite Crimean Blockade which began on Sept 20.
Khaiser’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov informed of the move on Sunday. He stressed that it was illegal even by Russian legislation according to which his client should be imprisoned either according to his place of residence, namely, Crimea, or in the Krasnodar region where the trial took place. Russia has twice ignored Ukraine’s requests for Khaiser Dzhemiliev’s extradition.
This new development comes less than a month after Russia’s Supreme Court reduced the sentence passed on the 33-year-old Khaiser from 5 to 3.5 years. It comes exactly one week after the beginning of the Blockade initiated and fully supported by Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, Head of the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly. Although the aims of the Blockade have now become broader, one of the first specific demands was that the ban imposed by Russia on Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Chubarov and others should be removed. In a chilling response to this, the de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya indicated clearly that both leaders, as well as others, could face imprisonment in Russian-occupied Crimea on charges of “encroaching upon Russia’s territorial integrity”. That is, Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians whose homeland was seized by Russian soldiers in late Feb 2014 and then illegally annexed, face prosecution for publicly calling for Russia’s occupation to end.
Mustafa Dzhemiliev has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of open blackmail by holding his son in prison. The 71-year-old former Soviet dissident spent 15 years in a Soviet labour camp, and has now, under Russian occupation, been banned from Crimea and Russia, meaning that he cannot even visit his son. The move to Astrakhan oblast will make it extremely difficult for Safinar Dzhemilieva, Khaiser’s mother to visit her son.
In May 2013 Khaiser Dzhemiliev shot and killed Fevzi Edemov who was working as a guard to the family. All the evidence indicated that this was a tragic accident, and that the correct charge should be of manslaughter through careless use of firearms.
It was under Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency that attempts were first made to use the case against Khaiser to blackmail Mustafa Dzhemiliev threatening to change the charge from manslaughter to murder. These attempts were continued by Russia following its annexation of Crimea.
In the meantime the Ukrainian authorities passed the case to the Kyiv prosecutor on the basis of the Ukrainian Law on the Occupied Territory. An application to reinstate the original manslaughter charges was allowed, and two Kyiv courts subsequently ruled that Khaiser should be released from custody.
Since these rulings were ignored, Mustafa Dzhemiliev approached the European Court of Human Rights, which on July 10, 2014, ordered Khaiser Dzhemiliev’s release. Instead of complying with the Court in Strasbourg, Russia moved the young Ukrainian to the Krasnodar region in Russia. It also tried to charge Khaiser with murder “out of hooligan motives”, as well as with stealing and keeping a weapon and ammunition.
A Ukrainian court passed sentence in April 2015, with Khaiser’s extradition then immediately demanded. This was also ignored, and Russia continued with its illegal trial.
One cheering moment came at the end of May when a Russian jury rejected the charges of murder which Russian investigators had insisted on bringing. The jury found Khaiser Dzhemiliev guilty of manslaughter through carelessness and of illegal possession of a weapon, as had the Ukrainian court. It considered that he was worthy of leniency over the charge of possessing a firearm.
The prosecutor nonetheless demanded a longer sentence of 5 years which the original court obediently provided.
As with political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, Russia has tried to foist Russian citizenship on Khaiser Dzhemiliev, but without any credibility. He remains a Ukrainian national whom Russia is legally obliged to extradite to Ukraine.