Ukrainian jailed in occupied Crimea because someone with a different name is wanted by Interpol
It is not only civic activists and known opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea who take a risk visiting the peninsula under Russian occupation. Kabir Mohammad, a Ukrainian citizen originally from Afghanistan and his Ukrainian family have paid a high price for their attempted visit on September 14, 2016. Mohammad was seized by Russian border guards that day because a person with a different name but same country of origin is on Interpol’s wanted list. He has been held in detention ever since. The Russian authorities appear unpeturbed that they have the wrong man, but can’t extradite aa Ukrainian citizen to Iran. His wife suspects they are continuing to hold him imprisoned to avoid admitting their mistake.
Oksana Mohammad told the Crimean Human Rights Centre that she and her husband were travelling with their two children when stopped by Russian border guards at the Armyansk crossing into Crimea. The guards announced that Interpol had put an Afghanistan national called Mohammad Kabir Niyazi on the international wanted list at Iran’s request.
The border guards seem to have decided that two out of three would do. It won’t since the man Iran wants to extradite on fraud charges has the surname Niyazi, not Mohammad like the Ukrainian.
Perhaps the border guards had limited facilities to properly check, however the mistake was then perpetuated by a judge at the Armyansk town court under occupation, Tatyana Fedeneva who that same night issued a ruling remanding Kabir Mohammad in custody.
Oksana shudders when she remembers that terrible night. For several hours, she says, she didn’t understand what had happened. She was left with two small children in the night, with no Russian roubles and nowhere to get them. She drove into Armyansk to the police station, but they didn’t allow her to see her husband. She and the children ended up effectively on the street that night.
Her husband has never been in Iran, however he does have an open Schengen visa which the family has used to travel around Europe. Nowhere was her husband stopped, as he would have been had the person on the Interpol list really been him.
The Afghanistan Consulate in the Russian Federation has confirmed that Mohammad is who he – and his documents – say he is. Yet is refusing to release him and let him return to Ukraine, yet has no right to extradite a person who is not a Russian citizen. The situation is obviously absurd, yet this has not stopped a de facto court from extending the detention period several times, with the last order issued on March 17.
Mohammad came to Ukraine originally in 1986 to study medicine. He settled in Ukraine, married Oksana who is from Poltava and the couple have a son and a daughter. He has been a Ukrainian citizen since 2012.
The family live in Boryspil (Kyiv oblast) and decided to visit Crimea after Mohammad suffered a stroke and was advised to spend time at the sea.
Oksana Mohammad says that her husband has had a second stroke while being held in the SIZO [remand prison[ and that he was given no medical assistance. His health has deteriorated dramatically, and the conditions in the SIZO are appalling, with 30 men held in a cold cell with only enough bunks for 15.
It seems he has now been transferred to the SIZO medical unit, but is getting no treatment there. His wife, who is back home, is unable to pass him any medicine since the SIZO accepts only medication with Russian certificates.
An application has been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights. It will hopefully be given priority treatment, since, as the Crimean Human Rights Group notes, the failure to provide medical care alone can constitute a violation of the right to life. This is not to mention the other rights violated in this appalling case.
Human rights activists have long warned Ukrainian citizens to think long and hard before embarking on any trip to Crimea. Several activists have ended up detained and even facing politically motivated charges, and two Ukrainians – Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets – have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for totally implausible and unprovable ‘offences’ against Berkut riot police in Ukraine’s capital well before Russia formally annexed Crimea.
On March 13, Olha Skrypnyk, the Coordinator of the Crimean Human Rights Group and two other rights activists were detained by armed FSB officers and illegally held for 7 hours near the Crimean border. There are grounds for believing that they were deliberately led into a trap (details here).