Abducted & tortured Crimean Tatar: “If I don’t speak out, they’ll come for others”
We cannot know how many Ukrainians the FSB have abducted and tortured in Russian-occupied Crimea to extract ‘confessions’ to non-existent crimes, however Renat Paralamov hopes that his refusal to remain silent can help prevent the number becoming even higher. The 31-year-old Crimean Tatar has paid a high price for his courage, since he and his family have had to leave Crimea for Kyiv where Paralamov is planning to become involved in campaigning against torture.
As reported, Paralamov was effectively abducted on September 13, after men in masks turned up at the home he was sharing with his wife, four children, and his parents-in-law. He doesn’t know why they targeted him, but had taken an active part in collecting money to pay the ever-increasing number of fines which the regime is using to try to crush opposition. He had also never concealed his religious views, nor his attitude to the “given situation on the peninsula”.
The paper the men waved in front of Paralamov gave permission only for an ‘inspection’, however the men reacted aggressively when he pointed this out.
It was noticeable that the two men who had FSB insignia quickly tried to conceal it after a large number of neighbours and friends gathered.
The family was not given a copy of the ‘inspection’ order, and Paralamov recalls only that it mentioned Viktor Palagin, the notorious Russian FSB General brought into Crimea soon after Russia’s invasion and annexation.
Paralamov refused to sign the document and also demanded that they call different ‘witnesses’, not those whom they had, in breach of the law, brought with them.
He was not informed of any charges, etc., simply forced into their car and taken away, with a bag over his head and in handcuffs. He was taken to a building, where most of the torture took place.
They began by asking basic questions. Paralamov, who still had a bag over his head, immediately cited his constitutional right to not answer, and demanded to have a lawyer present. The men laughed, and then a man, whose voice Paralamov recognized as being one of the men who’d arrived at his home, came up and punched him in the chest, saying that he was his ‘lawyer’. The next punch was to the back of the neck.
He was told he had two ‘choices’. Either he lost his health and did what they said, or he did what they said, without any damage to his health.
After that they used electric shocks from which he several times lost consciousness. At one point they clearly got worried that they had killed him and stopped for a while. They brought in a woman in a white coat who gave him some kind of injection, then pulled his jaw and said he was pretending when he showed it was painful, saying that he’d been given an injection.
This so-called doctor then left and the torture continued. Paralamov was in obvious distress as he described how they had threatened to rape first him, using barbed wire, then his wife.
It was after this that he agreed to sign their documents. One was an ‘interrogation’ protocol in which he ‘confessed’ to having found an explosive substance and bullets and hidden them, that he was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the peaceful pan-Islamist organization which is legal in Ukraine and most countries, but which Russia has claimed is ‘terrorist’, etc.
They also got him to sign a document saying he had left the FSB at 4 p.m. on 13 September, and ‘voluntarily’ returned to confess the following day after spending the night in a park. Another document claimed that he had “voluntarily agreed to cooperate with the security service’.
They did not specify what exactly his ‘cooperation’ was to entail, but did get him to speak on a video, both then and the following day in the forest where he supposedly indicated where he had found the secret stock of explosives.
It should be noted that this is very similar to the treatment of at least five Ukrainians arrested in 2014 whom the FSB claimed were carrying out ‘sabotage’ for the Ukrainian military in Crimea. Three of the men – Redvan Suleymanov, Volodymyr Prysich and Oleksiy Stohniy have since been jailed on charges quite different from what they supposedly ‘confessed to’. Two other men – Yevhen Panov and Andriy Zakhtei – have given an account of the torture methods used to extract their ‘confessions’ that is very similar to what Paralamov describes.
Lawyer Edem Semedlyaev believes it possible that the FSB might have planned such ‘saboteur’ charges in Paralamov’s case also.
Paralamov himself was told that he would be put on trial in about six months and would get a three-year suspended sentence. They said that they would provide their ‘lawyer’ so that he didn’t turn to independent lawyers like Semedlyaev and Emil Kurbedinov. If he tried to run away, they said, they would pass to the media his ‘agreement’ to collaborate with them.
Thankfully, the FSB miscalculated, as it has done on many occasions before, in occupied Crimea. There was immense concern and widespread publicity after Paralamov was taken away and simply disappeared, and there was no possibility at all of hiding the shocking state he was in when simply dumped by the FSB at the Simferopol coach station. It is an indicator of the regime of terror that the FSB has imposed that the first two hospitals they tried to take Paralamov to refused to admit him, although he was very clearly in need of hospital care.
The torture he was subjected to was also widely reported, as was the detention of Emil Kurbedinov and a number of Crimean Tatar activists who were waiting with Paralamov’s mother the next day as she demanded, without success, to see the head of the FSB. They were detained after Paralamov recognized one of his abductors and torturers in a man leaving the building. It is now known that this was Andriy Volodymyrovych Sushko, a former Ukrainian SBU officer who switched allegiance after Russia’s invasion.
Paralamov spoke publicly the same evening after his release, together with Emil Kurbedinov, making it dangerous for him to remain in Crimea. He has now explained that he left the peninsula within several days, having only risked spending one night in his own home. He was in hospital in Kyiv for 15 days, recovering from his ordeal, but needed to wait until his wife and four children were safely out of Crimea before he gave any press conference or interview.