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03.08.2020 | Halya Coynash
Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea

The price of PACE capitulation to Russia: Soaring number of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners

Risa Omerov and his wife as he was being taken away, one of the sons of Erfan Osmanov after armed and masked men burst into their home in occupied Crimea and seized his father Photos Crimean Solidarity
   

The reinstatement of Russia’s voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] just over a year ago was supposed to ensure ‘constructive dialogue’ and protect Russian citizens.  As of July 2020, Russia is holding a record number of political prisoners, with over 100 of these Ukrainian citizens, and is threatening to ‘extradite and imprison’ foreign nationals who correctly tell them that Crimea is Ukrainian.  That is without considering the parts of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine where Russian-controlled and armed militants are holding well over 200 prisoners of war and civilian hostages.  As if the PACE decision to withdraw sanctions despite the lack of any change in Russia’s behaviour were not enough, the Council of Europe is also continuing to collaborate with Rosfinmonitoring, a Russian state agency directly involved in political and religious persecution. 

In many respects, Russia has reinstated the political repression of Soviet times, however one aspect is undoubtedly worse.  At least after the death of Joseph Stalin, political dissidents and prisoners of conscience got sentences of up to 10 years.  Several Ukrainian political prisoners are now serving sentences of up to 20 years without any crime and after totally flawed trials.

Since the release in September 2019 of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and a number of other political prisoners in exchange for MH17 witness and possible suspect, Vladimir Tsemakh, there has been no progress on other prisoner exchanges.  Russia has, however, arrested and imprisoned at least as many new political prisoners, with the arrests occasionally eliciting words of deep concern, but little more.

There have, moreover, been the first two long prison sentences against Ukrainian Jehovah’s Witnesses: Serhiy Filatov and Artem Gerasimov, and huge sentences have been upheld against Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku and five other Ukrainian Muslims, all of whom are recognized Amnesty International prisoners of conscience.

Russia’s FSB and Investigative Committee generally use same or very similar formats for repression multiple times.   The following gives a brief account of the types of persecution, followed by a list of the political prisoners (press on them for more information).

Publicity is needed for all the Kremlin’s hostages, and any help in publicizing their persecution can help to ensure their release.  In many cases, the hyperlinks provide addresses to write to.  Please do not be overwhelmed by the number of prisoners.  Obviously nobody can help publicize all the cases or write to all the prisoners, but any help is enormously important.

Hizb ut-Tahrir cases

By far the most frequent of such conveyor belt ‘trials’ are those against Crimean Tatar (or other Crimean) Muslims, whom the FSB accuses of ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim party which is legal in Ukraine and which is not known to have ever committed acts of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world.  Russia is the only country in the world to have declared Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’ and the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre suspects that the Russian Supreme Court did so in 2003 solely to provide grounds for extraditing Uzbek nationals to Uzbekistan to face religious persecution.   

If the first four Crimean Tatars from Sevastopol arrested on these charges in January and April 2015 were essentially persecuted for their faith, later arrests have targeted civic and human rights activists and civic journalists.  After Russia’s mass arrests of 23 Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists on 27 March 2019 provoked international condemnation, the Russian FSB slightly modified their approach.  There has certainly been no let-up in repression but later ‘operations’ including that on 7 July 2020, have been more dispersed, even geographically, making it harder to keep up with the ongoing arrests and subsequent ‘trials’.  These are resulting in horrific sentences of up to 19.5 years’ imprisonment in a maximum security prison.  Not one of the men has been accused of any recognized ‘crime’, and the alleged ‘evidence’ of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir is based on planted literature; highly dubious ‘secret witnesses’ and FSB-loyal ‘experts’.

‘Ukrainian saboteur’ cases

These are clearly aimed at trying to convince the local population that Ukraine poses a threat to people’s safety, one that the FSB and Russia generally, are supposedly protecting them from.  In all of the cases, there are grandiose claims about purportedly thwarted crimes;  grounds for believing that the men were tortured and that evidence was fabricated. 

Mystery ‘spying’ charges

Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Accused of membership in Ukraine of organizations which Russia demonizes for political reasons. 

In the first few years after annexation, accusations of involvement in ‘Right Sector’ were most common.  One person – Oleksandr Shumkov – is still serving such a sentence, while several other men have been released after serving equally flawed sentences to the last day.

More recently, the FSB have been using charges of belonging to the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion, which is legal in Ukraine and which,  despite the name, is not an armed formation.  Although the Battalion is not, in principle, Crimean Tatar, but Crimean, Russia is targeting only Crimean Tatars and sentencing them to up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Other religious persecution

The Jehovah’s Witnesses

Tablighi Jamaat

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions  - fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists

Sevastopol Four    

Ruslan Zeytullaev 

Ferat SaifullaevRustem Vaitov andNuri Primov were released in early 2020 after serving wrongful sentences to the end

Yalta Six   - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.            

Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him.  See:

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it”

Muslim Aliev  

See: Stalin took Crimean Tatar Dilyara Alieva’s homeland and parents; Putin’s Russia has taken her son

Inver Bekirov

Vadim Siruk

Arsen Dzhepparov

Refat Alimov

Bakhchysarai Four  - four men arrested on 12 May 2016

Enver Mamutov

Rustem Abiltarov

Zevri Abseitov

Remzi Memetov

Simferopol Five   - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions

Teymur Abdullayev

Uzeir Abdullayev

See:  “Mama, have they come to kill us?” Russia’s new-old terror and deportation of Crimean Tatars

Emil Dzhemadenov

Aider Saledinov

Rustem Ismailov

Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests    

Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov  

Ernes Ametov  

Memet Belyalov  

Timur Ibragimov  

Seiran Saliyev

See: My grandfather was tried on the same charges as my son

Server Zekiryaev  

Server Mustafayev

Edem Smailov

22 March 2018        Nariman Memedeminov (a civic journalist)

10 May 2018           Enver Seytosmanov

14 February 2019    ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’ -  three men, including a civic activist and a 22-year-old  

Rustem Emiruseinov

See: Russia uses Trial by Fake Secret Witnesses to imprison Crimean Tatars

Arsen Abkhairov

Eskender Abdulganiev 

27 March 2019  ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia.  Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov were arrested later.

Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist

Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist

Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Rayim Aivazov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Enver Ametov  actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Osman Arifmemetov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

See: Bitter echoes of Stalin’s Deportation in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Tatars

Farkhod Bazarov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Remzi Bekirov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings.  Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention. 

Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Riza Izetov  human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist

Seiran Murtaza  actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.

Yashar Muyedinov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Seitveli Seitabdiev  Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Sheikhaliev  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Eskender Suleymanov,  Crimean Solidarity activist.

Ruslan Suleymanov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist

Asan Yanikov  civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.

10 June 2019  FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”   

‘Belogorsk group’  - including a father and son

Aider Dzhapparov

Enver Omerov

Riza Omerov

‘Alushta Group’

Eldar Kantimirov

Lenur Khalilov

Ruslan Mensutov

Ruslan Nahaev

11 March 2020   Another wave of armed searches and arrests in Bakhchysarai, targeting civic activists or their relatives

Seytumer Seytumerov

Osman Seytumerov  (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seytumerov)

Rustem Seytmemetov  (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)

Amet Suleymanova Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet).  He had recently restricted such civic activism, but only because of very serious heart problems.  This is one of only two cases where death in detention was presumably deemed so likely that Suleymanov was placed under house arrest.

7 July 2020  New FSB low, with arrest of a blind man with limited mobility and many others.  At least four of the men Vadim Bektemirov; Alexander Sizikov; Alim Sufianov and Emil Ziyadinov all took part in measures to help political prisoners and ensure circulation of information about such repression

Vadim Bektemirov

Ismet Ibragimov

Seiran Khairedinov

Zekirya Muratov

Alexander Sizikov(placed under house arrest due to his severe disability, but Russia is still trying to claim that he “led a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell”)

Alim Sufianov

Emil Ziyadinov 

Other religious persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serhiy Filatov

Artem Gerasimov

Tablighi Jamaat

Rinat Suleymanov

Talyat Abdurakhmanov(suspended sentence)

Arsen Kubedinov(suspended sentence)

Seiran Mustafaev (suspended sentence)

‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof 

Andriy Zakhtei

Oleksiy Bessarabov

Volodymyr Dudka

Dmytro Shtyblikov

Hennady Lymeshko  

Kostyantin Davydenko 

Oleh Prykhodko

Denis Kashuk

Mystery ‘spying’

Valentin Vyhivsky  Imprisoned since September 2014

Viktor Shur

Leonid Parkhomenko  

Vladimir Morgunov

Halyna Dovhopola  

Oleksandr Marchenko

Konstantin Shyrinha

Vasyl Vasylenko  - a 53-year-old former footballer whose arrest on spying charges was announced recently, nine months after his arrest

Ivan Yatskin

Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mykola Shyptur  imprisoned since March 2014

Oleksiy Chyrniy 

Andriy Kolomiyets   

Accused of membership in Ukraine of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes and has banned for political reasons. 

Maxim Filatov

Oleksandr Shumkov

Alleged membership of the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion

Fevzi Sahandzhy

Edem Kadyrov

Dilyaver Gafarov

Nariman Mezhmedinov

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

Rustem Abilev

Serhiy Buhaichuk

Oleh Chaban

Yevhen Karakashev

Ihor KIyashko

Maxim Sokurenko 

Punitive psychiatry

Yunus Masharipov


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