New Attack on Crimean Tatar Muslims in Russian-occupied Crimea
Emir Huseyn Kuku
Four Crimean Tatars, including Emir Huseyn Kuku, a member of the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights, remain in custody after a day in which the Russian FSB and OMON riot police carried out at least eleven armed searches of Crimean Tatar Muslim homes and detained 12 people. Fears that Russia is fabricating a new ‘terrorism’ case have now been confirmed with Natalya Poklonskaya, prosecutor in Russian-occupied Crimea, finally announcing that the four men are accused of involvement in a ‘terrorist organization’. This is how Russia alone describes the pan-Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Poklonskaya claimed that the law enforcement bodies “do not focus on any nationality”, but this was not the impression given during Thursday to all Crimean Tatars, including the many children awoken by armed men in balaclavas bursting into their homes.
Abdureshit Dzhepparov, Coordinator of the Crimean Contact Group reported that all searches had been carried out in a rough manner. In one home in Yalta, armed men in balaclavas broke down the door and windows although nobody had tried to show any resistance. The windows were smashed with the glass shattering over three children asleep in the room. They and their mother are understandably distressed and traumatized.
Zair Smedlyaev, Head of the Crimean Tatar Qurultay Election Commission, calls the actions total lawlessness. “Now everybody who has a beard, goes to the mosque, is a follower of Islam, is a potential terrorist for them.”
It should be noted that Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev reported soon after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea that FSB officers were quite openly turning up at mosques and carrying out surveillance, with religious behaviour deemed ‘suspicious’.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly has condemned this “new wave of repression” and the Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov believes that this is an attempt to discredit Muslims under the pretext of fighting a “Muslim threat”.
It is not the first time. Back in January 2015, four Crimean Tatars were arrested and are now facing ‘terrorism charges’ for their alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization that is legal in Ukraine and most other countries, and only labelled ‘terrorist’ by Russia. There have already been other arrests and trials in Russia of members of this organization. Russia has never come up with any evidence to warrant terrorism charges, yet there have already been many convictions, with long sentences imposed. The respected Memorial Human Rights Centre has pointed out that Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003 prohibited Hisb ut-Tahrir as ‘terrorist’ without demonstrating any evidence of terrorist activities. All those convicted under such dubious charges are recognized as political prisoners.
The four Crimean Tatars – Nuri Primov; Ferat Saifullayev; Rustem Vaitov and Ruslan Zeitullayev – have now been in custody for well over a year (see: Muslims labelled ‘terrorists’ under Russian occupation).
The four men who remain in custody after Thursday’s armed show of force are human rights activist Emir Huseyn Kuku; Enver Bekirov; Muslim Aliev and Vadim Siruk. All but Siruk, who seems to be a convert to Islam, are Crimean Tatar.
As reported here, Kuku, a member of the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights, was accused of ‘extremist’ publications in February last year over material posted on his Facebook page. There were around 42 texts, with many of them posts, or reposts, on religious subjects, They included references to various Internet sites, either Russian or Ukrainian, as well as to YouTube.
“In the first instance they were interested in an address to Crimean Muslims, videos, including foreign ones with translations addressing Muslims of Crimea with words of support, sympathy and calls to be patient because we find ourselves in such a position. They even fixated on the words “You are glorious, you believe in Allah” [the word in Russian is славные, and could simply express strong support / approval]. They’ve begun a linguistic analysis of this phrase. All of this is heading to [charges of inciting] interethnic enmity, Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code”.
The FSB apparently also objected to simple reposts, without any added commentary, of news on political issues.
There was no mention then of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Kuku had also been detained in April 2015. The FSB then removed both his and his wife’s laptops, a telephone and seven religious books not on Russia’s list of prohibited literature. He later posted photos of the marks from beating he had received, and said that if he disappeared, they should look for him at the Yalta FSB office.
Kuku was detained just weeks after the first four alleged members of Hizb ut-Takrir were arrested, but immediately released, with no charges linked to
Back in January last year, Abdureshit Dzhepparov called the arrests of the four supposed members of Hizb ut-Takhrir an attempt to intimidate other Muslims and spread the idea among other Crimeans that Muslims are a danger to others. Thursday’s armed searches and arrests are chilling indicators that no Council of Europe visits or European Parliament resolutions are to be put in the way of further repression and persecution.