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27.09.2017 | Halya Coynash

Sentence to silence Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov on trial for words he didn’t utter

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Russia’s trial on openly falsified charges of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov has reached its squalid end, with the real aim likely to be reflected in a ban on public activities, accompanying the demanded suspended sentence. No reversion to rule of law is anticipated, although the verdict is due a day after a UN monitoring report expressed exactly the same position on Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukrainian Crimea as that for which Russia has put 60-year-old Umerov on trial.

The verdict comes just five days after another Russian-controlled court passed a two and a half year suspended sentence on Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena. Russia has claimed that both Semena’s article expressing opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and an interview given by Umerov contained ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’.  These fall under a surreal new norm of the criminal code (280.1) which has been in force since shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and is being used to try Ukrainians in occupied Crimea for repeating the position of the UN, OSCE, EU, and all democratic countries.

Semena’s two and a half-year suspended sentence could very easily turn into a term of real imprisonment since the journalist has also been prohibited from engaging in any journalist activities or publicly expressing his position for three years. 

Umerov’s defence lawyer Mark Feygin is anticipating a similar ban in his client’s case which he says will be “doubly painful”.  “This is because Ilmi Umerov is one of the last leaders of the Crimean Tatar people still at liberty.”  The restrictions would seriously complicate his life in Crimea – his homeland, which he has made it quite clear that he has no intention of leaving.

While the same FSB ‘linguist’, Olga Nikolaevna Ivanova carried out the politically-commissioned task and ‘found’ so-called ‘public calls’ in both men’s texts, there is one glaring difference,  In Umerov’s case, the FSB resorted to brazen falsification of the interview he gave in Crimean Tatar.  They were caught doing so, and the defence has conclusively demonstrated that Umerov is charged over words that he either did not utter, or that were pulled out of context. 

Ivanova does not know Crimean Tatar and based her ‘assessment’ of the interview on a ‘translation’.  The defence has demolished that translation, and pointed to the fact that Ivanova assiduously blurs the real situation, talking of a transcript, where in fact there was only a bad translation. 

On September 13, the defence presented proof of systematic falsification.  They had found a witness - Gulnara Chantalova – whose institute was initially approached by the FSB for a translation of the interview.  The FSB clearly did not like the translation which saw no hint of the alleged ‘public calls’ in the interview and went in search of another one.  In grave breach even of Russian legislation, there was no official record that  at least one earlier translation had been examined and found, as Umerov himself suggested, to be all too close to the truth.

The nature of at least one of the mistakes suggests that Umerov’s words were deliberately distorted to enable charges under Article 280.1, the 2014 addition to Russia’s criminal code increasingly used against critics of Russia’s occupation of Crimea..

Under such circumstances, it was evident that the defence would wish to question the translator Saledinov as a witness.  They therefore objected at the sixth hearing on July 12, when de facto prosecutor Artemenko insisted that the translator be present, with this precluding the possibility of later questioning him as witness.  ‘Judge’ Andrei Sergeevich Kulishov  typically backed the prosecutor and rejected the defence’s application for Saledinov’s withdrawal from the case (as translator).

Worth recalling that the investigator in this case – Igor Skripka – illegally demanded that Umerov’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov be questioned as a ‘witness’, thus forcing him off the defence team

At an earlier hearing, Saledinov was asked to translate in court Umerov’s words from the video recording. The translation differed radically from that provided.

Where Umerov was speaking about international sanctions and how these should be strengthened, Saledinov added the modal “it’s necessary to”, thus claiming falsely that Umerov had said that Russia must be forced to leave them. 

When challenged in court to say whether Umerov had used the modal, Saledinov claimed falsely that you can put it in or not.

This flawed translation was then provided to the so-called FSB linguistic expert Olga Ivanova, who ‘saw’ what she was told to see.

Her assessment has been totally demolished by the reputable Moscow Guild of Linguists.  Their report notes that Ivanova’s assessment from August 22, 2016 had not reflected part of the original data, with this placing the objectivity of the assessment in doubt.

The experts were scathing about procedure, and found that there had been no justification for the conclusions presented by Ivanova.  Her claim that the interview, as per a shoddy translation had contained ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’ was based on two alleged utterances.  One of these had simply not been there, and the other had been pulled out of context and seriously distorted.

On the eve of the verdict, Ilmi Umerov reiterated that he will challenge anything but total acquittal, all the way to the international courts.

In his final address to the court, he said that it was Russia that was guilty before him.  “t is Russia who committed an act of aggression against Ukraine, having occupied and annexed my native land – Crimea.  This court travesty is one, he noted, in which “traitors are putting patriots on trial”. 

The verdict comes just five days after another Russian-controlled court passed a two and a half year suspended sentence on Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena. Russia has claimed that both Semena’s article expressing opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and an interview given by Umerov contained ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’.  These fall under a surreal new norm of the criminal code (280.1) which has been in force since shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and is being used to try Ukrainians in occupied Crimea for repeating the position of the UN, OSCE, EU, and all democratic countries.

Semena’s two and a half-year suspended sentence could very easily turn into a term of real imprisonment since the journalist has also been prohibited from engaging in any journalist activities or publicly expressing his position for three years. 

Umerov’s defence lawyer Mark Feygin is anticipating a similar ban in his client’s case which he says will be “doubly painful”.  “This is because Ilmi Umerov is one of the last leaders of the Crimean Tatar people still at liberty.”  The restrictions would seriously complicate his life in Crimea – his homeland, which he has made it quite clear that he has no intention of leaving.

While the same FSB ‘linguist’, Olga Nikolaevna Ivanova carried out the politically-commissioned task and ‘found’ so-called ‘public calls’ in both men’s texts, there is one glaring difference,  In Umerov’s case, the FSB resorted to brazen falsification of the interview he gave in Crimean Tatar.  They were caught doing so, and the defence has conclusively demonstrated that Umerov is charged over words that he either did not utter, or that were pulled out of context. 

Ivanova does not know Crimean Tatar and based her ‘assessment’ of the interview on a ‘translation’.  The defence has demolished that translation, and pointed to the fact that Ivanova assiduously blurs the real situation, talking of a transcript, where in fact there was only a bad translation. 

On September 13, the defence presented proof of systematic falsification.  They had found a witness - Gulnara Chantalova – whose institute was initially approached by the FSB for a translation of the interview.  The FSB clearly did not like the translation which saw no hint of the alleged ‘public calls’ in the interview and went in search of another one.  In grave breach even of Russian legislation, there was no official record that  at least one earlier translation had been examined and found, as Umerov himself suggested, to be all too close to the truth.

The nature of at least one of the mistakes suggests that Umerov’s words were deliberately distorted to enable charges under Article 280.1, the 2014 addition to Russia’s criminal code increasingly used against critics of Russia’s occupation of Crimea..

Under such circumstances, it was evident that the defence would wish to question the translator Saledinov as a witness.  They therefore objected at the sixth hearing on July 12, when de facto prosecutor Artemenko insisted that the translator be present, with this precluding the possibility of later questioning him as witness.  ‘Judge’ Andrei Sergeevich Kulishov  typically backed the prosecutor and rejected the defence’s application for Saledinov’s withdrawal from the case (as translator).

Worth recalling that the investigator in this case – Igor Skripka – illegally demanded that Umerov’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov be questioned as a ‘witness’, thus forcing him off the defence team

At an earlier hearing, Saledinov was asked to translate in court Umerov’s words from the video recording. The translation differed radically from that provided.

Where Umerov was speaking about international sanctions and how these should be strengthened, Saledinov added the modal “it’s necessary to”, thus claiming falsely that Umerov had said that Russia must be forced to leave them. 

When challenged in court to say whether Umerov had used the modal, Saledinov claimed falsely that you can put it in or not.

This flawed translation was then provided to the so-called FSB linguistic expert Olga Ivanova, who ‘saw’ what she was told to see.

Her assessment has been totally demolished by the reputable Moscow Guild of Linguists.  Their report notes that Ivanova’s assessment from August 22, 2016 had not reflected part of the original data, with this placing the objectivity of the assessment in doubt.

The experts were scathing about procedure, and found that there had been no justification for the conclusions presented by Ivanova.  Her claim that the interview, as per a shoddy translation had contained ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’ was based on two alleged utterances.  One of these had simply not been there, and the other had been pulled out of context and seriously distorted.

On the eve of the verdict, Ilmi Umerov reiterated that he will challenge anything but total acquittal, all the way to the international courts.

In his final address to the court, he said that it was Russia that was guilty before him.  “t is Russia who committed an act of aggression against Ukraine, having occupied and annexed my native land – Crimea.  This court travesty is one, he noted, in which “traitors are putting patriots on trial”. 

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