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04.07.2018 | Halya Coynash

Jailed Crimean Tatar Human Rights Activist on Hunger Strike in Russian World Cup city

Emir-Usein Kuku in 'court'
   

Emir-Usein Kuku has been on hunger strike since 26 June in Rostov.  Nothing is known of the human rights activist’s condition, with the Russian state-controlled media generally avoiding mention of the 11 Ukrainian political prisoners, most of them Crimean Tatar, currently ‘on trial’ in this World Cup hosting city. Like fellow Crimean political prisoner Oleg Sentsov, Kuku is demanding that Russia release all of the over 70 Ukrainians it is holding prisoner on politically motivated charges and / or for their faith.

26 June was Kuku’s 42nd birthday, the third he has spent in Russian captivity on charges so fatally flawed that the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre has already declared him and five other men political prisoners.  Kuku is also one of Amnesty International’s prisoners of conscience. 

Kuku was one of the first Crimean Tatars to face persecution by the Russian FSB in occupied Crimea for human rights work and / or civic activist generally. 

Harassment began long before any mention was made of the current charges which Russia is using to imprison him.  The son of a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, Kuku reacted to the armed searches of homes and mosques within months of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, as well as the disappearances of young Crimean Tatars by joining the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights.  He was responsible for monitoring rights abuse in the Yalta region. 

On April 20, 2015, Kuku was himself, almost certainly, the victim of an attempted abduction, which turned into an ‘FSB’ detention, beating and search only after Kuku’s shouts attracted attention (Details here:  When Abduction Turns to FSB ’Search’ in Russian-occupied Crimea)

All of this, it should be stressed, was recorded, including the involvement of Alexander Kompaneitsev, a former SBU turncoat, now working for the FSB.  According to lawyer Alexander Popkov, Kompaneitsev very early on tried to get Kuku to inform on fellow Muslims, then during the abduction-cum-search on April 20, 2015, he threatened him with the consequences if he refused.  He has turned up so far twice in the SIZO [remand prison] and tried, just as unsuccessfully, to get Kuku to ‘collaborate’. 

Kuku refused to be silenced about his treatment and demanded an investigation. This produced contradictory statements from the FSB officers and probably renewed determination to get rid of Kuku. 

On December 3, 2015, new charges were announced under Russia’s notorious ‘extremism’ laws.  This was over material posted on his Facebook page, once again with no mention of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the organization which he is now alleged to have been involved in.

On February 11, 2016, Kompaneitsev took part in the armed searches of four homes and arrests of Kuku, Muslim Aliev, Envir Bekirov and Vadim Siruk.  In April that year,  two very young men – Refat Alimov (Bekir’s nephew) and Arsen Dzhepparov were also arrested on the same charges. 

Kompaneitsev did not concentrate only on Kuku.  Bekir has testified in court that Kompaneitsev threatened him while already in detention that they would arrest Alimov if he didn’t give false testimony against the others.  Dzhepparov was several times stopped by the FSB and unambiguously warned that he would be arrested if he didn’t agree to act as an FSB ‘informer’, i.e. providing the ‘testimony’ required of him.

All the men refused to ‘cooperate’ with the FSB. 

This is the second ‘trial’ on charges linked with Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist movement which is legal in Ukraine, and is not known to have committed an act of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Russia declared it ‘terrorist’ in 2003, keeping the ruling secret until it was too late for Hizb ut-Tahrir or human rights organizations to challenge it, and never provided a good reason for its decision. 

Such charges are regularly used by the FSB to conduct mass prosecutions, with men receiving sentences of up to life imprisonment merely on the unproven charge that they ‘organized’ or were ‘involved’ in a Hizb ut-Tahrir group (under Article 205.5 § 1 and 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code, respectively).  Not a single ‘crime’ is required, nor any real proof of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, since the FSB regularly pulls out ‘secret witnesses’, whom lawyers and human rights groups believe to be either FSB officers or people who have been forced or persuaded to collaborate with the FSB.

47-year-old Muslim Aliev has been designated the role of ‘organizer’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘cell’, with the charge under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code carrying up to a life sentence.  Refat Alimov; Envir Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk are charged with ‘involvement’ and face a sentence up to 20 years. 

As if these charges were not bad enough, in January 2017 the FSB added Article 278 (‘attempting violent seizure of power’) with this adding at least eight years to the sentences.  There were no rational grounds for this, but, as lawyer Emil Kurbedinov noted, the added charge has long been part of the arsenal used against alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir within the Russian Federation.

Another part of this arsenal has, most shamefully, become the harassment of children who have already been deeply traumatized by seeing masked men with machine guns burst into their homes, seize and take their fathers away.

In April 2016, two months after Kuku’s arrest, an FSB officer turned up at the school of his then 9-year-old son Bekir.  The man said that Bekir’s mother had probably told him and his 5-year-old sister Safiye that their father was away on a business trip.  The man then said that this was not the case.  Bekir’s father had got involved with bad men, he claimed, who preached Islam to those of other faiths, and they had behaved badly.  “Your father will now spend 10-12 years in prison.” 

It is believed that other children have been subjected to the same cruel treatment, but were unwilling to make this public.

The next ‘hearing’ is due on 11 July, by which stage Kuku will have been on hunger strike for 16 days. 

Please write to Emir-Usein Kuku, Muslim Aliev, Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; and Vadim Siruk

The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that the ‘trial’ now underway is being followed.  Please also approach politicians and human rights organizations in your country, asking them for adequate reaction to this machine of repression which Russia has unleashed in occupied Crimea.

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the crib letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. 

Exampleletter

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 

Addresses

The men have been split up, with Aliev and Kuku in SIZO-4, the other men in SIZO-1 (the differences are small, so please copy carefully).  The address each time, should have the man’s full name, and year of birth.

Emir-Usein Kuku

344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Куку, Эмиру-Усеину Кемаловичу, 1976 г.р.   

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]

MuslimAliev

344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]

RefatAlimov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Enver Bekirov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Бекирову, Энверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Bekirov, Enver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Vadim Siruk

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]

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