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01.09.2020 | Halya Coynash
Freedom of expression

Russian prosecutor demands 15-21-year sentences against 8 Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists

From left Timur Ibragimov, Memet Belyalov, Edem Smailov, Seiran Saliyev (singing a traditional song about Bakhchysarai Bağçasaray aralıqları), Ernes Ametov, (back) Server Mustafayev, Server Zekiryaev, Suleyman Asanov Photo Crimean Solidarity
   

A Russian prosecutor has demanded sentences of between 15 and 21 years against eight Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists, including Crimean Solidarity Coordinator and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Server Mustafayev.  The arrests and ‘trial’ of the eight men were already a ‘record-breaker’ in being the first time that Russia had so brazenly targeted civic activists and journalists in occupied Crimea.  It now looks set to bring the most horrific sentences to date imposed by an illegal occupation regime against men who have committed no crime at all. 

During the ‘court debate’ in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia), prosecutor Yevgeny Kolpikov claimed that the men’s ‘guilt’ had been proven and asked for the following sentences.

Civic journalist Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov – 20 years’ imprisonment, then 21 months’ restriction of liberty and an 800 thousand rouble fine.  That this sentence involved a motive of primitive plundering was seen in the fact that Kolpikov also asked that the family’s property, including the renowned Salachik Cultural and Ethnographic Café not be returned to the family;

Memet Belyalov  - 21 years’ imprisonment and a further 23 months’ restriction of liberty;

Civic journalist Timur Ibragimov – 20 years’ imprisonment, then 21 months’ restriction of liberty;

Civic journalist Seiran Saliyev – 19 years’ imprisonment, then 6 months’ restriction of liberty;

Civic journalist / photographer Ernes Ametov – 17.5 years’ imprisonment, with a further 7 months’ restriction of liberty;

Civic journalist and Crimean Solidarity Coordinator Server Mustafayev – 17 years’ imprisonment, then 6 months’ restriction of liberty;

Edem Smailov - 17 years’ imprisonment, then 6 months’ restriction of liberty;

Server Zekiryaev – 15 years’ imprisonment, then 5 months restriction of liberty.

Kolpilov claimed that these sentences had taken into account the numerous witnesses who had provided positive assessments of the men.  He did not mention that most of them had in fact rejected the claims made by the FSB (of involvement in a totally peaceful movement), and that the court (presiding judge Rizvan Zubairov) had refused to hear a number of defence witnesses.  Virtually all of the prosecution witnesses who gave testimony against the men were either FSB officers or were ‘secret witnesses’ whose testimony, which closely echoed the FSB’s charges, could not be verified.

The prosecutor also came up with draconian demands regarding the period of ‘restriction of liberty’. 

In a totally new move, Kolpilov proposed that all the men be imprisoned in a prison (the harshest of Russian forms of imprisonment) for five years, then moved to maximum security prison colonies.

It seems likely that the ferocity of the sentences demanded is linked to the fact that essentially all the men are to some extent civic activists and five were involved in civic journalism, in particular providing information about the mounting repression and rights violations in occupied Crimea. 

As mentioned, the arrests on 11 October 2017 of Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov; Ernest Ametov;  Memet Belyalov; Timur Ibragimov; Seiran Saliyev and Server Zekiryaev , and then on 21 May 2018 of Server Mustafayev and Edem Smailov were the first time that Russia had obviously targeted Crimean Solidarity and other civic activists and journalists.  

The charges and horrific sentences demanded are based solely on unproven allegations of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine.  In declaring all Ukrainian Muslims arrested on such charges to be political prisoners, the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre has repeatedly pointed out that Russia is in breach of international law by applying its own legislation on occupied territory.  It has, however, also noted that Russia is the only country in the world to have called Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’ and the Russian Supreme Court did so in 2003 at a hearing which was deliberately kept secret until it was too late to lodge an appeal.  Russia has never explained how an organization that is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world can be ‘terrorist’. Instead, it is simply using this label to enable the imprisonment of men who have committed no crime to such monstrous terms of imprisonment. 

In occupied Crimea it is increasingly using such prosecutions as a weapon against civic activists and journalists.

Initially, the FSB designated only Asanov as ‘organizer of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’, with the charge under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code carrying a potential life sentence.  The other men were all charged with ‘involvement in such an alleged ‘group’ (Article 205.5 § 2, with the sentences up to 20 years).  There has never seemed to be any good reason why one person gets the much more serious charge, not another, or why others are suddenly designated ‘organizers’.  This was what happened in February 2019 when it was announced that Belyalov and Ibragimov were now also facing the ‘organizer’ charge.

Shortly afterwards, all eight men were also charged (under Article 278) with ‘planning to violently seize power’.  No attempt has been made to explain how the eight men were supposed to have planned to do this.  Russian prosecutors simply claim that this follows from Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology. It does not, and, in fact, the Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre has observed that the extra charge is often laid where political prisoners refuse to ‘cooperate with the investigators’, as in this case, and all prosecutions of Crimean Muslims.

The ’trial’ is continuing on Tuesday. 

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

Ernes Ametov

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 Saliyev

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

Saliyev, 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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