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18.08.2017 | Halya Coynash

Crimean Tatar political prisoner hopes to return from Russian prison and help Ukraine

Nuri Primov
   

Nuri Primov, who turned 41 on July 31, is one of the ‘Sevastopol 4’, the first four Ukrainian Muslims to have been arrested in Russian-occupied Crimea for unproven involvement in the peaceful Hizb ut-Tahrir organization which is legal in Ukraine. 

A graduate of the Kyiv Theatre Institute, Primov had previously worked as an actor, however he was living in Sevastopol and working in construction when arrested. He is divorced, with an 11-year-old son, Eldar, who misses his father desperately.   

Since he had only recently become interested in Islam, and since only his mother is Crimean Tatar, it has been suspected that he was arrested to give the impression that the Russian occupation authorities were not targeting Crimean Tatars.  The next four Crimean Muslims arrested just over a year later also included Vadim Siruk, an ethnic Ukrainian and convert to Islam.

Arrest

Primov was employed building a house, together with Ruslan Zeytullaev and Rustem Vaitov, when the three men were arrested in January 2015.  Ferat Saifullayev was arrested in April that year. 

There were gross irregularities even during the detention hearings, and the four men were prevented from all being represented, as they wished, by lawyer Emil Kurbedinov. There were overt attempts to intimidate people coming to the detention hearings to show solidarity, with a police officer even wandering around videoing those present.

The charges

Primov, Saifullaev and Vaitov were all charged with ‘taking part in a terrorist organization’ under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code, while Zeytullaev was accused of ‘organizing’ it (Article 205.5 § 1). 

The charges pertained solely to alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Evidence against Hizb ut-Tahrir

None.  The organization is legal in Ukraine and most western countries, and there is no evidence that its members have committed acts of terrorism or violence anywhere.  Russia declared it terrorist without providing any explanation, and now regularly sentences men to huge sentences merely on charges of being members.  All those convicted on such charges are recognized by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners.

Evidence against the four Sevastopol Muslims

The only ‘evidence’ against any of the men came from a video in which they discussed the political situation in Crimea, before and after it came under Russian control.  The discussion was deliberately provoked and illicitly videoed by an FSB informer.  

Aside from a former Ukrainian SBU officer with a known axe to grind against Zeytullaev and Saifullaev, almost all the other ‘prosecution witnesses’ retracted testimony they had allegedly given earlier, or denied having said what was asserted of them. Even the FSB’s ‘secret witness’, who spoke from another room with obvious prompting still gave confused and contradictory testimony.  

It should be stressed, as did Memorial HRC, when it recognized them as political prisoners long before the gravely flawed trial ended that Russia is already in breach of international law by conducting any trials under Russian law on occupied territory.  This prosecution is especially shocking as Ukrainian Muslims are prosecuted for alleged involvement in an organization which is legal in Ukraine.

The trial

The trial had been farcical and even the judges at the Rostov Military Court (in Russia) balked at providing the sentences demanded. Lacking the courage to acquit the men, they sentenced Primov, Saifullaev. Vaitov to the minimum 5 years possible under the article of the criminal code, and reclassified the charge against Zeytullaev to ‘involvement’.  The FSB required an ‘organizer’ and challenged the latter ruling, with a second court proving more compliant, though still sentencing Zeytullaev to 12 years, not the 17 demanded by the prosecution.  The prosecutor has now challenged that ruling as well.

Imprisonment

Now held in a Russian prison colony, Primov is at least able to speak with his son by telephone around once a month.  That is the only good thing to be said, since Russia is illegally prisoning Primov and the others very far from their homes.

He was recently targeted by a Russian propaganda channel REN-TV for a program essentially aimed at claiming that Ukraine is ‘funding terrorism’.   The program was manipulative and dishonest, unlike Primov who was presumably quoted very little because he made it quite clear that he did not accept the charges. Asked deliberately provocative questions, he pointed out that any material that the presenter spoke of as being banned had been of an educational nature and that any thoughts about a world Khalifat were something for the distant future.  He said that he hoped, when released, to help Ukraine, including by making all efforts to return Crimea (details here). 

Address

Please write to Nuri (Yury in Russian, and it’s probably better to write Yury so as to not not give the prison censor an excuse to not let the letter reach him).  If it is difficult to write in Russian, even the message below, perhaps with a photo would still tell him and Russia that he is not forgotten.

Send to:

Russian Federation, 425408, Republic of Mariy El, Sovetsky Raion, Yasny, No. 3, Yasnaya St, Prison No. 5

Primov, Yury Vladimirovich, born 1976 

Birthday:      31 July

General letter

Добрый день,

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

Мы о Вас помним.

[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.

More details about the trial and all four men’s addresses can be found here

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