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25.06.2020 | Halya Coynash
Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea

Young father sentenced to seven years for refusing to collaborate with the FSB

   

The first time Russia’s FSB demanded that Arsen Dzhepparov give false testimony against four Ukrainian political prisoners and he refused, they got him fired from his job.  A week later, the FSB caused a minor road incident involving Dzhepparov’s car, stopped him and, when he still refused, got him fined for supposed drunken driving.  On that occasion, the traffic police officer told the 25-year-old Crimean Tatar that, whatever the FSB wanted, he should agree to, since, otherwise, they’d destroy him.  A week later, on 18 April 2016, armed FSB and other officers burst into his home and arrested him on the same ‘terrorism’ charges as the political prisoners he had refused to tell lies about.

Dzhepparov and his wife, Zarina, had said nothing, as Dzhepparov’s mother was in ill health and they hadn’t wanted to worry her, but they had clearly understood what was coming. How would he ever be able to tell their small daughter Evelina about conscience and honour, he asked, if he had helped persecute innocent men who also had wives and children?  

That same day, the FSB also came for Refat Alimov, the 24-year-old nephew of one of the four political prisoners who had also refused to ‘cooperate’.

We know from at least one other person that the FSB used threats and torture against other Crimean Tatars to try to get ‘evidence’ for this prosecution. It is, unfortunately, likely that some did not withstand the pressure.

Over four years after the arrests, all the six men remain imprisoned in Russia, facing huge sentences, with the second, and probably final, appeal hearing due on 25 June.  The ‘trial’ and appeal have been dragged out, probably because the case attracted a huge amount of attention.  This was due both to the gratuitous violence of the FSB ‘operation’ and because this was the first time that Russia openly targeted a human rights activist, Emir-Usein Kuku.

Armed and masked men burst into 11 homes in the Yalta region of occupied Crimea on 11 February 2016, shattering windows and terrifying small children.  Four men were arrested: Muslim Aliev; Inver Bekirov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk.  The latter is an ethnic Ukrainian convert to Islam, and it was widely assumed that his arrest was so that the FSB could deny that they were targeting only Crimean Tatars, while also a threat to other converts.

An indictment without a crime

The six men, counting Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov, were all charged with supposed ‘involvement’ in the peaceful pan-Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is legal in Ukraine.  Russia’s entirely unexplained decision to declare Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’ in a secret ruling by the Supreme Court in February 2003 is quite literary the basis for ‘terrorism’ charges against the men, not one of whom is accused of anything more than discussing religious issues, reading religious books, etc 

It is both because of the lack of any grounds for the charges, and because Russia, as occupying state, has no right to prosecute Crimeans according to Russian law, that the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre soon declared all six men to be political prisoners.   This was the second time Russia used such flawed ‘terrorism’ charges in occupied Crimea, but the first case had received shockingly little attention from the international community. On this occasion, a human rights activist who had already faced harassment from the occupation authorities, had been arrested and that made international NGOs react.  The arrests also led to the emergence of the civic initiative Crimean Solidarity which both helped political prisoners and their families, and publicized information about persecution.  This has made its members the targets of many later arrests.

Two men – Aliev and Bekirov – were charged with ‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’ under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.  There does not appear to be any valid reason why some of the political prisoners are charged with being organizers, others only of ‘involvement’ (Article 205.5 § 2), however the difference in likely sentences is massive.  It was with this case that Russia’s FSB also added another extraordinarily cynical charge – of planning ‘violent seizure of power’ (Article 278).  The Memorial Human Rights Centre has noted on many occasions that this extra charge is often used against men who refuse to ‘cooperate’ with the FSB.  All the Ukrainian Muslims arrested in occupied Crimea have rejected any such ‘cooperation’, and the new charges have now become standard.

The ‘trial’, like the vast majority of those against Ukrainian political prisoners, took place in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don (Russia).  Despite the trial having broken all records for the number of infringements and falsifications, on 12 November 2019, ‘judges’ Roman Viktorovich Saprunov; Dmitry Viktorovich Merkulov and Roman Vladimirovich Podolsky passed the guilty sentences demanded of them.  Although not one of the men was accused of any actual crime, all sentences were for terms of imprisonment in maximum security prison colonies where the conditions are particularly appalling.

49-year-old Aliev was sentenced to 19 years; 55-year-old Bekirov to 18 years;  43-year-old Kuku and Siruk (30) to 12 years; Alimov (28( to eight years, while Dzhepparov, who is now 29 got seven years.  Russia is also flouting the European Court of Human Rights in imprisoning men thousands of kilometres from their homes, making it effectively impossible for elderly parents and the men’s children to visit them.

Please write to Arsen Dzhepparov; Muslim Aliev; Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; 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.

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

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 ]

MuslimAliev

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 ]

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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