Mother of Crimean Tatar political prisoner declares hunger strike
On 19 June Rayme Primova lodged an application with the Russian FSB in Sevastopol, asking that her son be placed on any list of prisoners for exchange, together with filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and others. She was told that an answer would only be forthcoming in a month. Even if she can be persuaded, for her son and grandson’s sake, to end her hunger strike, there may well not be another month remaining. Oleg Sentsov has now been on full hunger strike for 36 days, demanding the release of all political prisoners, and there are grave fears for his state of health.
The civic initiative Crimean Solidarity reports that Rayme Primova has official invalid status, due to a serious liver disorder and only one kidney. She has since explained that she decided on a hunger strike after the arrest of Nuri’s cousin, Enver Seytosmanov on 10 May 2018. He is now facing similar charges to those Nuri was convicted of, and it is only a matter of time before the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre also declares him a political prisoner. It was after this that she became terrified for her son, fearing that something would happen to him and they would claim that he had killed himself. She can’t sleep at night and, because of her state of health, is frightened that she will not live to see her son again. She asks forgiveness that she is only talking about her son, and not about the others. “I am trying to support and am proud of him”
41-year-old Nuri (Russian Yuri) Primov was one of the first Crimean Muslims to be arrested on fabricated ‘terrorism charges’ at the beginning of 2015. He is a graduate of the Kyiv Theatre Institute and previously worked as an actor, though at the time of his arrest was employed building a house near Sevastopol. He is divorced, with a son Eldar, who will shortly be turning 12 and who has suffered terribly from his father’s arrest.
Primov was arrested on 23 January 2015, together with Ruslan Zeytullaev and Refat Vaitov. Ferat Saifullaev was arrested in April that year on the same charges.
Vaitov, Primov and Saifullaev were all charged with ‘taking part in a terrorist organization’ under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code, while Zeytullaev was accused of ‘organizing’ it (Article 205.5 § 1).
The charges pertained solely to unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist organization which is legal in Ukraine (and most other countries) and is not known to have committed an act of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world. Russia’s decision in 2003 to declare it ‘terrorist’ was unexplained and taken in secret to avoid it being challenged. Russia now regularly sentences men to huge sentences merely on charges of being ‘members’, with the ‘proof’ of such membership most often fabricated.
All those convicted on such charges are recognized by the Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners. In the case of the first four Crimean Muslims, Memorial HRC saw no need to wait until the end of the ‘trial’, since even if the charges had been reasonable, which they were not, Russia would still be in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other treaties by applying Russian law on occupied territory.
Within a month of its illegal annexation of Crimea, Moscow brought in Viktor Palagin, notorious for his use of such ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ prosecutions in Bashkiria, to head the FSB. His tactics in Russia have run up against problems in Crimea however, with the arrests, the fabricated charges and ‘trials’ given wide publicity and with lawyers insisting on highlighting all irregularities and falsifications.
Emil Kurbedinov, who defended Zeytullaev, explains that the ‘case’ against the four men was based solely on a tape of a meeting arranged by an FSB provocateur, who was later a ‘secret witness’ at the ‘trial’. The individual asked deliberately provocative questions with this ‘kitchen conversation’ which he had secretly taped then used to convict the men. It should be stressed that the questions were not about planned crimes, but about religious and political views. The level of such ‘proof’ can be seen in the fact that the FSB’s ‘linguistic expert’ claimed that the men were members of Hizb ut-Tahrir on the basis of a word used, although this word, originally from Arabic, is common among Crimean Tatars.
There was literally no other evidence at all (more details here).
On the day that the ‘court’ in Rostov [Russia] was due to pass sentence, the four men wore T-shirts reading: ’Banned again’; ’Crimean Tatars’; Order carried out as commissioned’ and ‘the show ends’. The ‘trial’ had been so shoddy and falsified, that even judges at the Rostov Military Court in Rostov on the Don flouted the FSB and prosecutor’s demand of 17 years for Zeytullaev and 7-8 years for the others. The charges against Zeytullaev were changed from being the supposed organizer, to simply taking part in a Hizb ut-Tahrir group and he was sentenced to 7 years, the other men getting the minimum sentences under the charge – 5 years. It is a reflection of the repressive regime Russia has imposed that this ruling seemed like a ‘victory’.
The relief with respect to Zeytullaev’s sentence was fleeting. As Kurbedinov warned, the FSB could not tolerate deviation from their storyline which requires an ‘organizer’ and several people who are merely ‘involved’ and / or ‘recruited’. The sentence was challenged and then challenged again, until Russia’s Supreme Court came up with a 15-year sentence.
Zeytullaev has since been sent to Maximum Security Prison Colony No. 2 in Salavat, Bashkiria, which has a very bad reputation and which is two and a half thousand kilometres from his wife and children.
Please write to Nuri Primov, Ruslan Zeytullaev; Ferat Saifullaev and Refat Vaitov!
Letters are important so that the men know that they are not forgotten, and make sure that Russia understands that their behaviour is under scrutiny.
Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects. If that is a problem, use the crib letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. It is good to enclose thin paper and an envelope, giving your address clearly in case the men are able to reply.
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. ]
Yuri Primov (best to use this Russified version of his name)
Russian Federation, 425408, Republic of Mariy El, Sovetsky Raion, Yasny, No. 3, Yasnaya St, Prison No. 5
Primov, YuriVladimirovich, born 1976
It is Nuri Primov’s 43rd birthday on 31 July – if you wish to send a birthday card, the above letter would be fine, maybe adding : С днём рождения! [Happy Birthday!]
453256, Башкортостан, г. Салават, ст. Южный, ФКУ ИК № 2 УФСИН России по Республике. Башкортостан,
Зейтуллаеву, Руслану Борисовичу, 1985 г.р.
[Or in English (slightly shortened)
45325 Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 2,
Zeytullaev, Ruslan Borisovych, born 1985
612740 Kirov oblast, Omutninsk, Trudovykh Reservov St., 125, Prison No. 17
Saifullaev, Ferat Refatovych, born 1983
640008, Kurgan, Chasovaya St, 2, 40 г. Курган, ул. Часовая 2-я, 40,
Vaitov, Rustem Mamutovych, born 1986