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26.06.2020 | Halya Coynash
Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea

Huge sentences upheld for defending human rights and integrity in Russian-occupied Crimea

From left Arsen Dzhepparov, Refat Alimov, Vadim Siruk, Inver Bekirov, Emir-Usein Kuku and, far right Muslim Aliev Photo Crimean Solidarity
   

Russia’s Military Court of Appeal has upheld horrific sentences against Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku and five other Ukrainian Muslims despite the lack of any crime and a record-breaking number of falsifications.  The gross flaws in the case have been spelled out by, among others, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and noted by the EU diplomats who attended the first appeal hearing, yet the ‘judges’ did not make even a symbolic reduction in the sentences. 

The six recognized Ukrainian political prisoners and Amnesty International prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned since 11 February 2016, with their arrests marked by particularly shocking brutality and cynicism.  Not only were they never accused of any recognizable crime , but all were effectively targeted for their steadfast adherence to principles.  This was in marked contrast to the Ukrainian turncoat, Alexander Kompaneitsev, who in his new capacity as FSB officer, played an especially malignant role in persecuting the men.

The FSB ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016 was the most brutal to date, with armed and, often masked, men bursting into 11 homes, carrying out ‘searches’ and terrorising small children.  On several occasions, they broke down doors or windows, which was doubtless for greater intimidation since nobody showed any resistance.  Four men were arrested that day: Muslim Aliev; Inver Bekirov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk.  We know from the testimony of a friend of Kuku’s that at least two of the other men taken away for ‘questioning’ were tortured and threatened with the same charges if they did not give false testimony.  Two much younger men were arrested on 18 April: 24-year-old Refat Alimov and Arsen Dzhepparov (25).

All six men were effectively accused only of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim movement which is legal in Ukraine and most countries. The ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003 to declare it ‘terrorist’ was kept secret until it was too late to lodge an appeal and it has never been explained.  The fact that nothing about the organization justifies the label of ‘terrorist’ is one of many reasons why the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre considers all Muslims ‘convicted’ purely of alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir to be political prisoners.  Memorial HRC had not even waited for a sentence in this case or any others involving Crimean Muslims since Russia, as an occupying state, is also in breach of international law for imposing its legislation on occupied Crimea.

In condemning this case, Memorial wrote that “Hizb ut-Tahrir cases are among the so-called ‘serial’ cases: the FSB obtains ‘high results’ (dozens of convictions) for minimum effort, practising mass persecution without any grounds”.   The cases are known to earn FSB officers promotions or other goodies, with at least two former Ukrainian SBU [Security Service] turncoats, including Kompaneitsev, very actively persecuting Ukrainian Muslims. 

Kuku had responded to the ever-increasing number of forced disappearances, armed searches and arrests under Russian occupation by becoming active in the Crimean Contact Group for Human Rights.  He had already faced persecution for this, including a likely attempted abduction which only turned into an ‘FSB search’ carried out by Kompaneitsev after passers-by came to Kuku’s rescue.  While international NGO’s had been slow to react to the previous case involving persecution of Crimean Muslims, the fact that Kuku had already faced harassment and persecution, without any mention of Hizb ut-Tahrir, made it clear that the charges against him were politically motivated.  The same, however, is true of all six men.  Dzepparov was almost certainly arrested because he rejected Kompaneitsev’s attempts to get him to collaborate with the FSB, and Bekirov was directly told that Kompaneitsev would arrest Alimov, who is his nephew, if he did not ‘cooperate’.  It is likely that Aliev was targeted for his religious independence and civic position.  The same is probably true of Siruk, however in his case there could well be a further reason.  Siruk and his wife are ethnic Ukrainian converts to Islam, and it is quite likely that his arrest was intended as a threat to others not to convert.

Initially, only Aliev was designated the role of ‘organizer’ of a supposed ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir cell’, under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code, with this carrying a sentence of up to life imprisonment.  The other men are charged with ‘involvement’ under Article 205.5 § 2 with the sentences still appalling, but lower. Then suddenly in August 2018, after the ‘trial’ had already begun in Rostov (Russia), presiding judge Nikolai Yurevich Vasilchuk (presumably with the backing of judges Valery Sergeevich Opanasenko and Stanislav Vladimirovich Zhidkov)returned the case to the prosecutor, suggesting that Bekirov also be charged as ‘organizer’.  This was a shocking abuse of the role of judges who had thus doubled up as prosecutor.  In fact, there is reason to believe that other irregularities in the case which the defendants and their lawyers had drawn attention to may have prompted the decision to abort the first attempt at a ‘trial’ which, because of Kuku, was attracting a lot of attention.

By then, all six men had been charged additionally with ‘‘preparing for violent seizure of power by an organized group according to a prior conspiracy’ (Article 278).  Memorial HRC has pointed out on many occasions that Russia uses this extra charge as a weapon against men who refuse to ‘cooperate’ (by agreeing to give false testimony, admit to the charges, etc).  Not one of the men charged in occupied Crimea has agreed to ‘cooperate’, and the country which invaded Ukrainian Crimea in 2014 is now effectively always bringing these surreal charges against Ukrainian Muslims.

Memorial has studied the ‘indictment’ and evidence and concluded that “not only did the defendants not engage in terrorist activities, but they did not carry out any publicly dangerous activities at all”.  In all such cases, Russia uses ‘secret witnesses’ and FSB-loyal ‘experts’ who will find ‘proof’ of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir in any text demanded of them.  In this case, they claimed to find it in a recorded conversation “in the kitchen” where the men were discussing the situation in Russia, Ukraine, the fate of Crimea, the place of Islam in both countries and various religious postulates.

It was on the basis of this that on 12 November 2019, ‘judges’ Roman Viktorovich Saprunov; Dmitry Viktorovich Merkulov and Roman Vladimirovich Podolsky (from the Southern District Military Court in Rostov) passed the six guilty verdicts required of them.  These were, on 25 June 2020, upheld by Oleg Aleksandrovich Yegorov; Aleksander Aleksandrovich Mordovin and Anatoly Valentinovich Solin.  It should be stressed that all of these individuals, together with the prosecutors and others implicated in the case, were fully aware that the men had never committed any crime at all. To varying degrees, all took part in falsifying evidence or turning a blind eye to such falsification.

49-year-old Muslim Aliev  sentenced to 19 years

55-year-old Inver Bekirov sentenced to 19 years

Emir-Usein Kukuwho turns 44 on 26 June 2020 was sentenced to 12 years

30-year-old Vadim Siruk who has never seen his younger daughter, was sentenced to 12 years

Refat Alimov (28) sentenced to 8 years

Arsen Dzhepparov (29) sentenced to 8 years  

All of the sentences involve ‘maximum security prison colonies’ where the conditions are exceptionally bad.  It is also certain that Russia will continue to flout a clear directive from the European Court of Human Rights and will imprison the men in Russia, thousands of kilometres from their families and home.

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

The letters tell them and Moscow that they are not forgotten. 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. 

The address for each of the men will be changing, so please check this site for updates!

Example 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

Muslim Aliev

347910 РФ, г. Таганрог, ул. Ленина, 175 ФКУ СИЗО-2 ГУФСИН России по Ростовской области  

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

[In English:  347910  Russian Federation, Taganrog, Lenin St., 175, SIZO No. 2

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]

Refat Alimov

344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

[In English:  344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Enver Bekirov

344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Бекирову, Энверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

[In English:  344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Bekirov, Enver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

346519  Россия, Ростовская область, г. Шахты, пос. Кирпичный, ФКУ СИЗО-4 ГУФСИН РОССИИ ПО РОСТОВСКОЙ ОБЛАСТИ

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

[In English:  346519 Russian Federation, Rostov oblast, Shakhty, Kirpichny, SIZO No. 4

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Emir-Usein Kuku

344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

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

[In English:  344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]

Vadim Siruk

344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

[In English:  344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]


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