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Imprisoned Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader on hunger strike

Halya Coynash.

Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly has gone on hunger strike in protest at being placed in a solitary confinement punishment cell.  There are fears that the occupation regime may be planning a show trial of a leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement on the eve of the anniversary of the Deportation.

Chiygoz was arrested on Jan 29, 2015 over a pre-annexation demonstration on Feb 26, 2014 and has been in custody ever since. There have been five other arrests with only one person not held in custody, and numerous other interrogations and searches, including of most members of the Mejlis. 

Even without the surreal nature of a criminal prosecution over which Russian-occupied Crimea can have no jurisdiction, there is also considerable evidence, including video footage, proving that Chiygoz and all other members of the Mejlis present sought to calm the crowd and prevent disturbances. 

The Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov warns that the occupation regime is planning reprisals against Akhtem Chiygoz.  

Now that the Crimean Tatar Spring Festival Hyderlez, which the occupation regime tried to hijack with very limited success, is over, Chubarov writes, repressive measures against Crimean Tatars have again been stepped up.

“Escalation on the eve of May 18, Remembrance Day for the victims of the genocide of the Crimean Tatar People, arrests, interrogations and violence against those who took part in the demonstration in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in Simferopol on Feb 26, 2014, indicates that the occupiers are intending come what may to organize knowingly unlawful show trials of activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement.

To this end, dozens of Crimean Tatars arrested have been coerced in the course of interrogation to give false testimony against Akhtem Chiygoz, while various forms of pressure and blackmail have been used against Chiygoz himself in the SIZO [remand centre].”

He points out that there were two demonstrations on Feb 26, 2014 with quite opposite aims.  Chubarov organized the Crimean Tatar demonstration in support of Ukrainian territorial integrity, while the other was organized by Sergei Aksyonov, then an obscure politician from a marginal pro-Russian party with criminal links.

Chubarov adds that it is undoubtedly true that by 14.00 on Feb 26, 2014, when drunk Sevastopol separatists began arriving in coaches and KAMAZ trucks, Aksyonov totally lost control over those at his demonstration.

A Novaya Gazeta correspondent, Pavel Kanygin was present during the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014.  His reports correspond with those from Radio Svoboda which reported when Chiygoz was arrested that their video footage clearly showed all representatives of the Mejlis seeking only to calm the crowd and prevent bloodshed.

Kanygin’s report focuses on the Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov whom the occupation regime could not arrest since Russia had already banned him from his homeland back in July 2014.  Chubarov is reported to have spoken through a megaphone calling for calm after the first scuffles broke out.  Later, after the parliamentary session believed to be planning to take control was cancelled,  Chubarov and Aksyonov came out together and called for calm and for the demonstrators to disperse.  Kanygin adds that the Crimean Tatars heeded this call, not the pro-Russian demonstrators who remained and kept chanting “Russia!”

Following Russia’s invasion and annexation of a part of Ukraine, no violations can be called strictly surprising, yet the so-called ‘Feb 26, 2014’ had already reached new depths of lawlessness, and in the new treatment of Akhtem Chiygoz looks set to plummet still further.



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