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18.11.2019 | Halya Coynash

Russia begins show trial of Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists

15.11.2019 From left Edem Smailov, Ernes Ametov, Server Mustafayev, Memet Belyalov, Marlen Asanov, Timur Ibragimov, Server Zekeryaev, Seiran Saliev Photo Crimean Solidarity
   

Three days after a Russian court passed unprecedentedly long sentences against Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku and five other Ukrainian political prisoners, the same Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don has begun a new ‘trial’ of eight Crimean Tatars.  Although the charges are identical, this was the first time when Russia dropped all pretence, with virtually all the victims being civic activists and / or civic journalists, most of whom are involved in the ‘Crimean Solidarity’ civic initiative.  The help Crimean Solidarity provides to political prisoners and their families, as well as the information its members circulate about rights abuses have clearly angered Moscow, which is trying to crush Crimean Tatar solidarity through horrifically long prison sentences. 

Although many civic activists had already faced persecution earlier, the armed searches and arrests on 11 October 2017 marked a new and very serious escalation in Russia’s offensive against Crimean Solidarity.  Six men were arrested that day: Crimean Solidarity civic journalists Timur Ibragimov; Seiran Saliev and Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov; Crimean Solidarity photographer Ernes Ametov; volunteer, organizing parcels for political prisoners, Memet Belyalov, and Server Zekeryaev.   Then on 21 May 2018, they came for Crimean Solidarity coordinator and civic journalist Server Mustafayev and Edem Smailov, who was active in organizing children’s festive events and is also the leader of a local religious community.

All eight men have families, and all were respected and law-abiding members of their communities, making the supposed ‘terrorism’ charges against them so shockingly cynical.  As in all these conveyor belt trials’, the men are not accused of any recognizable crime, merely of alleged ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist movement which is legal in Ukraine and which is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world.  Russia is literally the only country to have declared Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’, and its Supreme Court did so in 2003 at an effectively secret hearing which was only made public when it was too late for it to be appealed.

The FSB always designates at least one person for the more serious charge of ‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’ (under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code), with this carrying a sentence of up to life imprisonment.  The others are accused of ‘involvement’ in such an alleged ‘group’ (under Article 205.5 § 2). 

In this case, three men have been designated the ‘organizers’’ role: Marlen Asanov; Timur Ibragimov and Memet Belyalov.  Asanov was named Ukraine’s Volunteer of the Year in December 2017, and with cause.  By profession, a teacher of Crimean Tatar Language and Literature, Asanov opened and ran the Salachik Cultural and Ethnographic Café in Bakhchysarai, and was generous in helping all those in need.  He had become a very active member of Crimean Solidarity, and would buy medicine or clothes for the children of political prisoners, pay for operations, etc.  

Asanov has four children.  His three young sons: Said, Suleymut and Eskender had come to Rostov-on-Don on 15 November, doubtless hoping to catch a glimpse of their father, although they would not have been allowed into the courtroom itself..  Each was dressed in a T-shirt with a picture of their father, and different captions: “Marlen Asanov imprisoned for two years”; “Baba [Daddy], you are my hero” and “Baba, we love and are waiting for you.”

All eight men were informed in February 2019 that they were facing another charge – of ‘‘planning to violently seize power’’ under Article 278 of Russia’s criminal code (‘planning a violent seizure of power’).  There is no empirical reason for such charges, and the Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre has pointed to evidence that the FSB applies this extra charge in cases where men refuse to ‘admit guilt’.

15 November

This was the first court hearing on the charges, with Russian prosecutor Igor Kollikov reading out an absurdly brief summary of the charges against all eight men, and judge Rizvan Zubairov interrupting the men when they expressed their opinion of the proceedings (Zekiryaev stated, for example, that he is a political prisoner – a view that the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre and other human rights groups would endorse).  There is a panel of three judges (presiding judge Rizvan Abullayevich Zubairov, Roman Viktorovich Saprunov and Maxim Mikhailovich Nikitin), with Saprunov having just taken part in passing knowingly wrongful sentences against Kuku and five other political prisoners.   The defence registered objections against Zubairov’s behaviour, however these were merely recorded.  Applications for the withdrawal of judges were rejected.  The defence has demanded clarification as to what exactly the defendants are charged with, as this is not clear from the indictment.

All of the men stated in court that they are Ukrainian citizens, and that they had been forced to take Russian citizenship. 

Russia’s attempt to crush Crimean Tatar solidarity has thus far failed, and very many people travel the long distance from Crimea to Rostov in order to show their support for the political prisoners. In a move of gratuitous cruelty, it was announced by a court bailiff that the judge had ordered that only 20 people be admitted to the courtroom for the next hearing on 19 November. 

PLEASE WRITE TO THE MEN!

The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that the ‘trial’ now underway is being followed. 

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer.

At the moment all eight political prisoners are in the same SIZO [remand prison] in Rostov-on-Don.  The address is below and can be written in either Russian or in English transcription.  The particular addressee’s name and year of birth need to be given.

Sample letter

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

ErnesAmetov

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

Аметову, Эрнесу Сейяровичу,  1985 г.р.

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

Ametov, Ernes Seyarovich, b. 1985  ]

Marlen Asanov

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

Асанову, Марлену Рифатовичу, 1977 г. р

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

Asanov, Marlen Rifatovich, b. 1977 ]

Memet Belyalov

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

Белялову, Мемету Решатовичу, 1989 г.р.  

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

Belyalov, Memet Reshatovich, b. 1989 ]

Timur Ibragimov

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

Ибрагимову, Тимуру Изетовичу, 1985 г.р.

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

Ibragimov, Timur Izetovich, b. 1985 ]

Server Mustafayev

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

Мустафаеву,  Серверу Рустемовичу, 1986 г.р.

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

Mustafayev, Server Rustemovich,  b. 1986 ]

Seiran Saliev

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

Салиеву,  Сейрану Алимовичу, 1985 г.р.

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

Saliev, Seiran Alimovich, b. 1985 ]

Edem Smailov

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

Смаилову,  Эдему Назимовичу, 1968 г.р.

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

Smailov, Edem Nazimovich, b. 1968 ]

Server Zekiryaev

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

Зекирьяеву, Серверу Зекиевичу, 1973 г.р.

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

Zekiryaev, Server Zekievich, b. 1973 ]

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