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Dzhemilev: Putin wants a meeting while holding my son hostage

Halya Coynash


Veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev is adamant that acceptance of Russia’s annexation of Crimea must not become part of any agreement to stop Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.  He is equally blunt about attempts to make his son’s ongoing detention in Simferopol depend on Dzhemiliev’s malleability.

During his visit to Crimea on June 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked why Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis, or representative body of the Crimean Tatar People, had been banned from their homeland for 5 years.  Putin answered: “We will work with absolutely everybody who wants the good of peoples of Russia, including the Crimean Tatar people now living in the Crimea, and will not work with those who speculate on problems of the past and make PR on the problems of the past their profession and means of earning money”.

Whether this was an answer is for the reader to decide.  Mustafa Dzhemiliev has heard many supposed reasons since the ban on the 71-year-old  shortly before the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland in May 1944.  Austria’s President Heinz Fischer informed him, for example, that Putin had claimed that he couldn’t allow Dzhemiliev into the Crimea because he’s a Ukrainian citizen and member of the Ukrainian parliament.

Putin’s words in Yalta were of particular cynicism.  What money is he talking about, Dzhemiliev asks.  “For many years we upheld our right to return to our homeland.  It earned us prison, labour camps – Kolyma and others.  And now we’ve earned a ban on our homeland”

Dzhemiliev, who was only 6 months old in 1944, spent 10 years in Kolyma for defending the rights of the Crimean Tatar People.  Since Ukraine’s independence he has played a vital role in defending democracy and freedom for all people of Ukraine. 

He explains that he has been approached by representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting that he meet with Putin.  They hint that it will depend on the outcome of their meeting whether Dzhemiliev’s son, Khaizer is released from detention and whether the five-year-ban on him will be lifted.

Dzhemiliev does not mince words: his son is being held hostage to get the answer they want from his father.

In May 2013 Khaiser Dzhemiliev shot and killed Fevzi Edemov who was working as a guard to the family.  Although all the evidence indicated that the young man should be charged with manslaughter, and even the widow of the dead man confirmed that her husband and Khaiser had been on excellent terms, the authorities charged him with murder.  

His father says that from the outset the focus was on him, not his son,  As reported,  in November 2013 he was offered a deal by people close to the then president Viktor Yanukovych – if he left the (opposition) Batkivshchyna party and joined the ruling Party of the Regions, his son would be freed the next day.  He could not accept such conditions and within a few days, the charges against Khaiser were made even more serious.

Khaiser’s case is now under investigation both by the Crimean investigators and by the Kyiv prosecutor.  The case was passed to the latter on the basis of the Ukrainian Law on the Occupied Territory.  An application was made to requalify the crime as manslaughter through carelessness, and this was allowed.  Two Kyiv courts have now ruled that Khaiser should be released from custody. 

It was because these rulings were ignored that Dzhemiliev approached the European Court of Human Rights, which on July 10 applied Rule 39 ordering that Khaiser be released from custody.

European Court of Human Rights judgements, as well as instructions under Rule 39, are binding on all signatories to the European Convention, including Russia, yet Khaiser Dzhemiliev has still not been released. 

With respect to the 5-year-ban, Dzhemiliev says that those who decided to impose it are ‘big optimists if they think that they will survive for 5 years”.  He believes that Russia’s occupation of the Crimea will not last that long. 

Asked how he and Chubarov are now defending the rights of Crimean Tatars under Russian occupation and about his meetings with world leaders, Dzhemiliev stresses that first and foremost they are insisting that the Crimea should not become part of any bargaining.  “There are such talks: supposedly if Putin guarantees that he won’t sent troops into Ukraine’s territory, and recalls his bandits from Donetsk and Luhansk, then they can go slow on returning the Crimea.”

Dzhemiliev also emphasises the importance of supporting their compatriots remaining in the Crimea.  He believes that Russia would like the Crimean Tatars to leave and is making the situation intolerable for them.

The Crimean Tatars are an indigenous people of the Crimea.  It is they who are in their homeland.  

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