Beating up Crimean Tatar activists is OK in occupied Crimea, demonstrating contempt for the assailants a ’crime’
24-year-old Shevket Razzakov is facing criminal charges in Russian-occupied Crimea for spitting at a Russian National Guard sniper during the armed search of another Crimean Tatar. An ‘ethical assessment’ has been ordered of the young man’s action. There has been no investigation, ethical or otherwise of the behaviour of the officers involved in beating up peaceful activists and hospitalizing one of them during the events that day.
On April 13 this year a huge number of armed and masked officers turned up at the homes of Midat Muzhdabaev and Seydamet Mustafaev from two adjacent districts of Bakhchysarai. 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 had machine guns with which they fired warning shots in the air, as well as batons which they used against other Crimean Tatars who gathered to show solidarity. One of the witnesses reported that the officers had deliberately struck the faces of people wearing glasses, and one of the people needed hospitalization after being beaten with batons.
As well as the gratuitous use of violence against totally peaceful people gathered, including men of fairly advanced age, there were also multiple procedural infringements. Lawyer Edem Semedlyaev reported that he had been prevented from entering while the searches, described as ‘inspections’ (обследование) were underway, and entire suburbs were effectively blocked off.
Such measures may be legitimate where dangerous criminals are at bay. This was not the situation here. Muzhabaev was eventually jailed for 3 days, Mustafaev for 12, both for alleged ‘propaganda of extremism’ under article 20.3 of Russia’s code of administrative offences.
Four men were detained while standing peacefully outside Mustafaev’s home, with shots then fired in the air and batons used against the men. Two other men – Ametkhan Umerov and Aziz Azizov – were 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. Semedlyaev and his colleague Lilia Gemedzhy were effectively 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.
Attempts to file formal complaints about the violence used and to appeal the sentences have proven futile, as is virtually always the case in courts under Russian occupation.
Now one of the young men who came to show solidarity is facing criminal charges. Shevket Razzakov is accused of ‘publicly insulting a representative of the authorities’ under Article 319 of Russia’s criminal code. He is supposed to have spat at a Russian Guard sniper and is also accused of using foul language about him.
Once again there were infringements of his rights. Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov reports that the young man was tricked into appearing at the so-called Investigative Committee on October 27. He was supposed to be summoned as a witness, and did not seek legal advice, only to find when he got there that he was handed criminal charges. The ‘investigator’ also announced that he intended to interrogate him on video, with a lawyer he appointed being presented. Razzakov fortunately refused and was released, under a signed undertaking not to leave the area. The charge could result in a sentence of up to one year’s community work.
Kurbedinov’s comment can only be seconded: “If you spat, then answer for it! Torture, fabricate criminal proceedings, hand down unjust sentences, abduct, illegally arrest people and you’ll be covered”