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10.07.2020 | Halya Coynash
Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it” Powerful final court address by Crimean Tatar human rights defender

Emir-Usein Kuku Photo Crimean Solidarity
   

The judges on 25 June who confirmed horrific sentences against Emir-Usein Kuku, Crimean Tatar human rights activist and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and five other Ukrainian political prisoners were almost certainly following directives ‘from above’.  So too, however, were the Soviet NKVD who took part in executing so-called ‘enemies of the people’ during Stalin’s Terror. All the ‘judges’, prosecutors and investigators complicit in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians must be held to account, and, until that happens, should at very least be subject to international sanctions. 

Kuku was speaking on the eve of his 44th birthday, his fifth spent in Russian imprisonment for his human rights activism in occupied Crimea and his refusal to help the FSB’s machine of repression by falsely testifying against innocent men. 

If any symbolism was intended by the choice of 22 June (the beginning of the Second World War for the Soviet Union), for the beginning of the men’s appeal, Russia should have dropped all pretence, Kuku says, and opted for 18 May.  This is the anniversary of the Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people in 1944 and it would have given starker effect for their reprisals.

“We were convicted for declaring our right to live in Crimea, in the land of our ancestors, in harmony with Islam, because I am a Crimean Tatar, a Muslim, and I don’t plan to accept the evil and injustice ruling on my land.

I have been charged with terrorism and an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Crimea and in Russia. It can be said that you use charges of terrorism and extremism against all those who refuse to remain silent and to give you cover by turning into ‘informers’ and denouncing our neighbours and compatriots.”

Kuku gives a biting assessment of Russia’s earlier seizure of Crimea in 1783, and of the lies told to try to claim that Crimea has always been ‘Russian’, as well as the deliberate resettlement of “new better types of people” as Elizabeth the Great called it. 

We Crimean Tatars have always remembered and will never forget that Crimea is our land.  We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it.”

Russia, which considers itself successor to the Soviet Union, has never answered for the crimes committed, and for the Deportation, and “therefore, we – the people, did not recognize and will not recognize as legal the occupation and annexation of Crimea by Russia, neither in 1783, nor in 2014 and now.

It was essentially for such thoughts that I was sentenced to 12 years’ maximum security imprisonment.  I repeat, not even for calls or actions, but for thoughts. Because in contemporary Russia, like 280 years ago, thinking and concepts that run counter to the official position of the regime are already a crime, a thought crime”.

Such a 12-year sentence is what you can expect to receive for a double murder, Kuku pointed out.  He got it for thinking.

Due to his civic activism in various fields, he says, the FSB tried on several occasions to recruit him as an informer or a provocateur, in order to arrest Crimean Tatars and other Muslims.  Such attempts were accompanied by threats of reprisals and imprisonment for many years, if he didn’t agree, as well as menacing hints about his beautiful wife and children.

The activities of the specific traitor, turned FSB operative whom Kuku spoke of has been reported here on many occasions.  Alexander Kompaneitsev played a malignant role in the arrests of at least three of the men.  In Kuku’s case, his refusals to collaborate led first to a whole series of criminal charges: for supposedly inciting enmity in pre-annexation publications, on claims that he beat an FSB officer (though he was himself the victim of an attack and likely planned abduction by the FSB) and social media posts.  None of these cases ever ended in convictions, despite the efforts of another traitor, Natalya Poklonskaya (installed as ‘Crimean prosecutor’ after Russia’s invasion).

And when all of that failed, they came up with a ‘terrorism’ charge with a supposed attempt to violently seize power for good measure.  “The prosecution label as terrorist activists the wish to study and follow our religion; the desire to revive the Crimean Tatar people as Muslims after more than half a century of banishment and forced exile by occupiers to achieve spiritual, moral and cultural degradation and assimilation.

It is the natural right of a people and of individuals to seek to observe the demands and canons of their religion, to teach this to their children and to explain this to all who wish to know, as well as to circulate it [the religion].

It is also natural to explain reasons and history. The events that led to my people being in the disastrous position that they are now in.  Today we feel like unwelcome guests at somebody else’s festival on our own land. Any of us can at any moment have our business, the land we received under Ukraine, taken away. or the home that we built with our own hands over many years and with our last savings can be knocked down.  All of this shows that there is nothing sacred for you. By “you” I mean in the first instance the authorities and state bodies which protect this “abode of evil”.”

Kuku went on to list just some of the many horrific cases of extreme corruption and criminal behaviour among the Russian FSB and police.  The details are truly shocking and can easily be supplemented by other cases.  Kuku describes the few cases where the men were actually caught (though it is not at all guaranteed that they will receive appropriate, or even any sentences) and points out that these are the structures   that are accusing him and his friends of ‘terrorism’.

It is, unfortunately, not only the enforcement bodies who have sold their souls.  In November 2019, Kuku made an equally powerful address to the Southern District Military Court in Rostov.

“Does it not strike you as strange that in the 23 years Crimea was under Ukrainian rule, there were no ‘extremists’ nor ‘terrorists’, and no ‘acts of terrorism’, but as soon as Russia arrived with its FSB, there was suddenly all of that?”, he asked.

The three judges: Roman Viktorovich Saprunov; Dmitry Viktorovich Merkulov and Roman Vladimirovich Podolsky were not there to think, and passed six shocking sentences, which ‘judges’ Oleg Aleksandrovich Yegorov; Aleksander Aleksandrovich Mordovin and Anatoly Valentinovich Solin upheld on 25 June.

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. 

The sentences are truly horrific, with all involving huge periods in maximum security prison colonies where the conditions are appalling.  The men have already been imprisoned for years in Russia, and will now be sent to Russian prisons thousands of kilometres from their families and from Crimea.

49-year-old Muslim Aliev  sentenced to 19 years

55-year-old Inver Bekirov sentenced to 19 years

44-year-old Emir-Usein Kuku - 12 years

30-year-old Vadim Siruk – 12 years

Refat Alimov (28) sentenced to 8 years

Arsen Dzhepparov (29) sentenced to 8 years  

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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