More reprisals against Tatar leader jailed for criticizing Russian occupation of Crimea
Rafis Kashapov, the Russian Tatar activist serving a 3-year sentence for criticism on social networks of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea is being moved to the worst form of cell-like imprisonment, with no indication of any time limit. It is possible that this is in punishment for his recent application to the European Court of Human Rights. Certainly the pretexts, according to his letter, posted by RosUznik (the initiative for writing to political prisoners) sound trumped up. It is perhaps significant that he is probably being sent to the same prison No. 31 in Mikun, the far-northern Komy Republic, as Crimean political prisoner Gennady Afanasyev.
Judging by the letter which the 58-year-old leader of the Tatar Public Centre wrote to his wife, Kashapov is also experiencing health issues which are not being addressed. He mentions a bad cough, kidney pain, constantly raised blood pressure, headaches and ringing in the ears.
There is obviously no way of verifying the information, however Kashapov has been recognized as a political prisoner by the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre, and the European Court of Human Rights seems very likely to decide that Kashapov’s rights have been grossly violated.
Kashapov was the first person to have been sentenced under the new charges of “public calls to violate Russia’s territorial integrity”. These came into force in May 2014, three months after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Fears were expressed at the time that the new charges could be used against critics of Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory. They were proven right by Kashapov’s arrest in December 2014 and subsequent conviction. Kashapov’s lawyer Damir Gainutdinov has noted that the Court in Strasbourg will effectively be judging whether Russia can punish people for expressing opposition to its annexation of Crimea.
‘Calls to separatism’?
Most of the comments which Kashapov made on the VKontakte social network reiterate the key position expressed in the March 27 UN General Assembly Resolution that Crimea remains part of Ukraine and that other countries should avoid any actions that could imply acceptance of Russia’s occupation.
What is alright for UN officials, the Council of Europe, European Parliament and all democratic countries can get you arrested and imprisoned in the Russian Federation.
The charges were of inciting hatred or enmity (Article 282 § 1 of the Criminal Code) and “public calls to actions aimed at violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity” via the Internet (Article 280.1 § 2). The latter criminalizes what are termed ‘public calls to violate Russian territorial integrity’ with this punishable by 4 years, or 5 if via the Internet.
The 3-year sentence was for four posts on the social network VKontakte, none of which has been removed or blocked – perhaps to warn others of what can get you a prison sentence.
There is a brief post entitled Yesterday – Hitler and Danzig, today Putin and Donetsk! It shows pictures of Putin with the caption reading: “Crimea has always been and remains an inalienable part of Russia” and of Hitler saying “Danzig was – and is a German city”.
The text asserts that since Russia’s occupation of Crimea the new unrecognized authorities have been destroying everything Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.
The text Crimea and Ukraine will be free of the occupiers! reports a demonstration in Ankara with banners reading, “Putin, get out of Crimea!” and calling both Stalin and Putin murderers. The protest, which Kashapov writes was supported by a large group of Crimean Tatars, was against a visit to the Turkish capital by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It criticizes the Turkish authorities for meeting with Putin and says that the latter is following Joseph Stalin’s tradition and carrying out a chauvinistic policy with respect to the Crimean Tatars. He mentions the 18 Crimean Tatars who have disappeared since Russia’s invasion and searches of homes, mosques and religious schools. He speaks of Russian “karateli” – those carrying out punitive operations and a term regularly used on Russian television but about Ukrainians.
In the post “Let’s defend Ukraine and the entire Turkic world!” Kashapov suggests among other things that Putin needs a victory over the Ukrainian people in order to remain in power. He says that Putin’s plan is to crush the Ukrainian revolution, destabilize the situation, etc. In short, roughly similar to what any number of analysts regularly write and exactly the position put in the report Putin. War that Boris Nemtsov was planning to write when he was gunned down outside the Kremlin in Feb 2015.
One final entry has a photo collage with the title “Where there’s Russia, there are tears and death”. The photos are from conflict in Moldova; Chechnya; Dagestan; Georgia and Ukraine.
An ‘expert assessment’ asserted that Kashapov’s texts deliberately stir up hatred to the following: “Russians”; “Russian authorities”, the Crimean “occupation authorities”; “President Vladimir Putin”.
The Sova Centre, on the contrary, found no grounds for the accusations against Kashapov. The Memorial Human Rights Centre in their statement declaring him a political prisoner stressed that Russian citizens have the right to criticize the current regime and that Kashapov’s posts had contained no incitement to violence.
Just criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and of Vladimir Putin which earned him a three-year sentence, with conditions getting worse and worse.