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Mustafa Dzhemilev banned by Russia as a ‘threat to national security’

Halya Coynash

A Russian court has upheld the ban imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea on veteran Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev.  A migration service official said that the 71-year-old had been banned for 5 years “to ensure the state’s defence capacity and security, and to safeguard public order.”

Dzhemiliev was represented in Moscow’s Basmanny Court by Mark Feygin, who is also acting as Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyer.  Feygin says that he will be appealing against Thursday’s ruling, as well as lodging suits against the actions of the FSB and Border Guard Service who he believes were instrumental in the ban on Mustafa Dzhemiliev. 

Russian state threat

Mustafa Dzhemiliev was 6 months old when the entire Crimean Tatar people were driven from their homeland.  He spent much of his life fighting for his people’s rights in exile within the Soviet Union, and their right to return to their native Crimea.  All of this made him an enemy of the Soviet regime and he spent 15 years in labour camps.

His steadfast commitment to non-violence played a vital role in enabling the return of the Crimean Tatars following Ukraine’s independence and in countering forces in Crimea seeking to stir up conflict.  It was largely thanks to Dzhemiliev’s influence and his positive legacy that attempts by pro-Russian groups to provoke violent resistance from Crimean Tatars, in particular following Russia’s invasion, proved unsuccessful. 

Now with Russia occupying his homeland, Mustafa Dzhemiliev is once again in exile and as before forced to uphold the increasingly violated rights of his people.

Dzhemiliev and the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly never concealed their opposition to Russia’s aggression and seizure of Crimea.  Attempts by Russia to woo Crimean Tatars, especially prior to the so-called referendum on March 16, were in vain. 

Crimean Tatars felt they had every reason to distrust Russian rule and, tragically, they have been proven right. 

Mustafa Dzhemiliev was initially handed a document informing him that he was banned from entering Russian-occupied Crimea (and the Russian Federation) on April 22, 2014, three days after arriving in Simferopol for the first time since Russia’s annexation.  It is probably of significance that on his arrival, Dzhemiliev immediately noticed that the Ukrainian flag had been removed from the headquarters of the Mejlis and ordered its reinstatement.

There was widespread outrage over the news of this move and claims were made the following day both in Russia and in the Crimea that the document was a fake and that no ban had been imposed. The document was certainly scrappy and had no official stamp, making a court appeal impossible.

Nonetheless on May 2 the denials proved to be false, and Mustafa Dzhemiliev was stopped by Russian border guards at Moscow airport on his way from Kyiv to Simferopol.  On May 3, around 5 thousand Crimean Tatars arrived at the Armyansk border crossing to greet Mustafa Dzhemiliev and escort his car into Crimea.  They were met by a large contingent of OMON riot police and representatives of the so-called ‘self-defence’ paramilitaries used since Russia’s occupation of Crimea. 

To avoid confrontation and inevitable bloodshed,  Dzhemiliev returned to Kyiv.  There were protests during that day with some Crimean Tatars briefly blocking a few roads. Although none was serious, so-called ‘prosecutor’ Natalya Poklonskaya issued a formal warning to the head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov over what she claimed to be “extremist activities”.  She refused to provide a written warning that could be appealed, but verbally threatened that “if the Mejlis does not stop its extremist activities. … it will be dissolved and prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.” 

She also announced that she was sending the Russian Investigative Committee and FSB documents to initiate criminal proceedings over what she termed “unlawful public protests of an extremist nature”.

A number of participants facing administrative proceedings and steep fines, however worse was to come almost 6 months later.  A number of Crimean Tatars were arrested, all remanded in custody (some but not all were released, pending trial), on highly dubious charges over alleged physical violence against one police officer.  The ‘case’ is increasingly reminiscent of the Bolotnaya Square prosecutions against protesters in Moscow.

Refat Chubarov was also banned from Crimea on July 5.  The overt offensive against the Mejlis gained intensity in September with an armed search of the headquarters and then forced eviction. 

The Deputy Head of the Mejlis Akhtem Chyyhoz has just been remanded in custody for three months following his arrest on Jan 29 on charges unprecedented in their cynicism.  He is charged – under Russian law - with ‘organizing mass disturbances’ the day before Russian soldiers invaded Crimea.

The news that a Russian court has agreed that Mustafa Dzhemiliev is a danger to the Russian state and has therefore allowed his exile came the day after the second Minsk summit and agreement at which Crimea was quietly ignored.  

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