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14.04.2017 | Halya Coynash

Batons & gunshots in new arrests of Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea

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Two Crimean Tatars have been jailed in Russian-occupied Crimea for so-called ‘propaganda of extremism’ after armed and masked men turned up at their homes early on April 13.  Five other men, two middle-aged men with serious health problems were also detained, some beaten and four of them later jailed for up to 7 days.

An official police report claimed that this had been ‘scheduled measures aimed at identifying and detaining individuals involved in an organization banned in Russia.  Literature of an extremist nature is removed”.   Whether the reported use of force against the detained men, and the firing of warning shots into the end were also ‘scheduled’ was not revealed.  There is nothing to suggest that such measures were warranted. 

A van with large numbers of armed and masked officers arrived at the homes of Midat Muzhdaba and Seydamet Mustafaev from two adjoining districts of Bakhchysarai at around 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.  Armed searches have become common since Russia annexed Crimea and the news spread swiftly through social media.  Many friends and neighbours of the men came out onto the street. 

This was a major operation in intimidation with the ‘normal’ police and OMON riot police accompanied by members of the Russian national guard, or ‘Rosgvardiya’, the formation created by presidential decree in April 2016, and widely viewed as President Vladimir Putin’s own “personal army” aimed at quelling unrest.  They were masked and with machine guns and batons, and are reported to have fired warning shots in the air and used violence against the men detained. 

There were multiple infringements.  Edem Semedlyaev reports that the searches were described as ‘inspections’ (обследование) and he was prevented from being present.  The entire suburbs were effectively blocked off.

The ‘operation’ was also effectively a repeat performance – both in the initial searches and detentions, and in the way men who came out in solidarity were then themselves detained, and accused of holding an ‘unauthorized meeting’.   

On Feb 21, OMON detained a young Crimean Tatar Marlen Mustafaev on his way to work and took him back to his home to carry out a search.  The neighbours and friends who gathered outside were first openly photographed, and when that didn’t frighten them away, ten men were themselves seized by the officers and taken away.

The ten men were all jailed for 5 days, many in ‘court hearings’ without lawyers present, and Mustafaev received an 11-day sentence.

Russian television then presented all of the events as an operation in seizing ‘terrorists’, with fake video footage supplied.

There were similar events, albeit on a smaller scale, on March 30 around the detention of Remzi Bekirov.  He was subsequently jailed for 3 days, with the pretext a 7-year-old video posted on a social network page that Bekirov had long deleted.

On April 13, while searches were underway of the homes of Seydamet Mustafaev and Midat Muzhdaba four men were detained outside Mustafaev’s home, reportedly with shots fired in the air and batons used against the men.  Two other men – Ametkhan Umerov and Aziz Azizovwere first chased and then detained.  In the police station, they were threatened, insulted and prevented from seeing a lawyer.

Umerov was later released, however Azizov was jailed for 7 days, as was Mustafa Abduramanov.  Remzi Zudiyev, whose daughter speaks of serious health concerns for her father, was jailed for 3 days, Eskender Memetov for 2 days, while Shevket Abduramanov, Mustafa’s father, was fined 10 thousand roubles.

The ‘court hearings’ in the case of the two Abduramanovs were held without lawyers, despite the men’s request for legal representation.  According to Elvina Semedlyaeva, the men were told that the ‘court’ had the right to try them without lawyers.  It seems, in fact, from what Edem Semedlyaev reports, that he and his colleague Lilia Gemedzhy were lied to, and while they were in court over Mustafaev and Muzhdabaev, all other five men, detained for showing solidarity, were jailed or fined without a lawyer present.

This major armed ‘operation’ in fact appears to have been on administrative charges under article 20.3 of Russia’s code of administrative offences, for so-called propaganda of extremism. 

Semedlyaev reports that Muzhdaba has been jailed for 3 days, Mustafaev for 12, however Mustafaev is also now facing administrative charges over a supposed ‘unauthorized meeting’ in support for detained activist Seiran Saliev, and the sentence may be increased.  The material in the case has, their lawyers say, been flung together in extremely sloppy fashion. 

Riza Muzhdabaeva has no idea why the men burst into their home and took her husband away.  The day before, they been celebrating their daughter’s return from the maternity home with their new granddaughter. 

Now her husband and Mustafaev are in custody on absurd charges.  

Everything about Thursday ‘scheduled measures’ suggest that they are aimed at creating just such uncertainty and fear that anybody could be next.  

 

 

 

 

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