28.12.2015 | Halya Coynash

Russia’s Attack on Crimean Tatar Leader nears Lawless Conclusion


A ‘trial’ is about to begin in Russian-occupied Crimea which flies in the face of all principles of law and which is openly targeting Crimean Tatars.  

The ‘file’ produced in Russian-occupied Crimea against Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly and two other Crimean Tatars contains 26 volumes and 47 gigabits of video footage.  The prosecution is doubtless hoping to use quantity to distract attention from the surreal lawlessness of the case, since the men’s imprisonment and trial are totally illegal even according to Russian law.  Chiygoz is accused of organizing, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy of taking part in ‘mass riots’ under Russian law, although the demonstration in question took place before Russian soldiers seized control and unequivocally on Ukrainian territory under Ukrainian law over which Russia has no jurisdiction.

Even with the fundamental contempt for the law shown by the case itself, it turned out that the occupation authorities could go one step further.  A Crimean court on Nov 25 shortened the period required to read 26 volumes, and watch 47 gigabits of video footage (each roughly 4 hours long) to Dec 4, 2015.   The appeal against this ruling was rejected on Dec 24, although the only grounds allowed for in the Russian Criminal Procedure Code for restricting the time taken is where there the defendants or their lawyers are deliberately dragging this out.  The defence pointed out that they had only had time to read 10 of the 26 volumes, and noted that for long periods (from Oct 30 to Nov 5, and from Nov 13-24, they had not been given access to the material).   They were only allowed into the SIZO or remand prison for 4-5 hours each working day, despite the over 160 hours of video footage.

The defence also reminded the court that Chiygoz’s detention had been extended until Jan 29, 2016 on the pretext that the accused needed to familiarize himself with the material.  And that such unwarranted restriction on the time given to read the material is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As has been the case from the outset, all arguments were rejected and the original ruling upheld.  The first hearing begins on Dec 28 with Natalya Poklonskaya, the person installed as prosecutor after Russia occupied Crimea, having announced that she will personally conduct the prosecution.

The Crimean Tatar Mejlis represents the vast majority of Crimean Tatars and has remained implacably opposed to Russia’s occupation of Crimea.  Since the former Head Mustafa Dzhemiliev and current Head Refat Chubarov have both been exiled since the invasion from their homeland, Chiygoz is the highest-ranking leader remaining in Crimea.  

He was arrested on Jan 29, 2015, 11 months after the demonstration in question, and around four months after the occupation regime began a general offensive against the Mejlis, not just its leaders.

Ali Asanov, who has a wife, four small children and an elderly father in ill health has been held in detention since April 15;  26-year-old Mustafa Degermendzhy – since May 7.

   Aktem Chiygoz is clearly visible here and  on the Radio Svoboda video here restraining protesters 

Chiygoz’ wife Elmira Ablyalimova told reporters on Dec 24 that the investigators had offered to release her husband from SIZO if he agreed to confess to organizing mass riots on Feb 26, 2014.  He remains true to his principles, she said, and had refused.  From the accounts given by members of their family, both Asanov and Degermendzhy have been put under pressure to testify against Chiygoz. 

The protest

There were around 10 thousand Crimean Tatars and Maidan supporters who gathered outside the parliament building in Simferopol on Feb 26, 2014, fearing that plans were underway to push through a bill changing Crimea’s status.  They were opposed by a smaller, but still considerable, number of pro-Russian demonstrators led by Sergei Aksyonov, then the leader of a marginal pro-Russian party in the Crimean parliament.  Aksyonov was installed as self-proclaimed leader on Feb 27 after Russian soldiers seized control of government buildings, etc.

Radio Svoboda reported at the time of Chiygoz’s arrest that their video footage clearly showed all representatives of the Mejlis seeking only to calm the crowd and prevent bloodshed.  This was also confirmed by a Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, writing for Novaya Gazeta, and present during the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014  He reports that Refat Chubarov used a megaphone to call for calm after the first scuffles broke out.  Later, after the parliamentary session believed to be planning to take control was cancelled,  Chubarov and Aksyonov came out together and called for calm and for the demonstrators to disperse.  Kanygin adds that the Crimean Tatars heeded this call, not the pro-Russian demonstrators who remained and kept chanting “Russia!”  The two older demonstrators from the pro-Russian camp died, one probably from a heartache, but both because of the crush among the pro-Russian demonstrators. 

Article 12 § 3 of Russia’s Criminal Code states clearly that a criminal prosecution can only be initiated against foreign nationals who committed an offence on the territory of another country if “the crime was directed against the interests of the Russian Federation or a citizen of the Russian Federation.”  If the investigators have managed to find a Russian national, they are not letting on.

It is truly worth viewing the demonstration(s) in question which can be seen here:

There is nothing to suggest that a fair trial can be expected for the three men.  All parties to this legal nonsense have ignored the impossibility of trying somebody for something that happened in a different country under different legislation.  The prosecution has openly targeted only Crimean Tatars and has used the supposed investigation as a pretext for constant interrogations, summonses and armed searches. 

There has been disturbingly little attention from international human rights organizations and European bodies to this trial in which lawlessness is being applied as a weapon against the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea.  


Please write to Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy !  

The Mejlis will pass on all letters to the men and even just a few words or a photo with your name will show them that they’re not forgotten. 

Letters should be sent to the Mejlis office in Kyiv: Представительство Меджлиса крымскотатарского народа в Киеве - 01014, Киев, ул. Седовцев, 22/14 (Ukraine,  Predstavitel’stvo Medzhlisa krymskotatarskogo naroda v Kieve – 01014, Kiev, ul. Sedovtsev, 22/14)

Please write the name of each of the men on the letter or card to them (the number at the end is their year of birth; it’s required for passing on letters to people in detention)

ЧИЙГОЗУ Ахтему Зейтуллаевичу, 1964 г.р.                Akhtem Chiygoz
ДЕГЕРМЕНДЖИ Мустафе Бекир огьлы, 1989 г.р.    Mustafa Degermendzhy
АСАНОВУ Али Ахмедовичу, 1982 г.р.                          Ali Asanov


If you can write in Russian, please do, but avoid any discussion of the case or politics. 

If not, the following would be absolutely fine:

If in the next few days, you could begin with   С Новым годом!    Happy New Year!

Or just:  Здравствуйте!   

Желаю здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

(Hello!  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).

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