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Crimean Tatar leader to remain imprisoned on absurd charges

Halya Coynash

The Supreme Court in Russian-occupied Crimea has refused to release imprisoned Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz.  The Deputy Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis [representative assembly] has been in detention now for 3 months, and despite the lack of any grounds, the ruling on May 25 which upheld the court order extending Chiygoz’ detention was unfortunately predictable. 

Nariman Dzelyal, now First Deputy Head of the Mejlis, told journalists that the court hearing had been short, with the ruling expected, despite all the arguments presented by the defence.

“The judge, after listening to all sides, withdrew for literally 2-3 minutes and returned with a prepared ruling, reading it out. The court secretary did not even go out with him which indicates that the ruling had been prepared and stamped before the hearing. We didn’t expect anything else”, he said.

They now plan to engage human rights organizations and “move to a different judicial level.”

Akhtem Chiygoz was first arrested on Jan 29, 2015, and his detention was recently extended for a further 2 months until June 30.  He, and now at least 6 other Crimean Tatars are charged in connection with a demonstration which took place on Feb 26, 2014, i.e. the day before Russian soldiers seized control, and over which Russian-occupied Crimea can have no jurisdiction.  There were around 10 thousand Crimean Tatars and Maidan supporters who gathered outside the parliament building in Simferopol that day because they feared plans were underway to push through a bill changing Crimea’s status.  They were opposed by a smaller number of pro-Russian demonstrators led by Sergei Aksyonov, then the leader of a marginal pro-Russian party in the Crimean parliament.  Aksyonov was installed as self-proclaimed leader on Feb 27 after Russian soldiers seized control.

Radio Svoboda reported at the time of Chiygoz’s arrest that their video footage clearly showed all representatives of the Mejlis seeking only to calm the crowd and prevent bloodshed.  This was also confirmed by a Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, writing for Novaya Gazeta, and present during the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014  He reports that Refat Chubarov used a megaphone to call 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!”

Ten months after this demonstration, the occupation authorities began ‘investigating’ the event, and have now made 7 arrests, with six people, including TV ATR cameraman Eskender Nebiyev, in custody.  They are also carrying out armed searches and interrogating members of the Mejlis and others.  Novaya Gazeta reports that the investigators were so short of any material, that they invited Simferopol residents who had been subjected to force “even in the absence of bodily injuries” to come forward. 

As reported here many times, this ‘case’ is by definition absurd and seems an overt attempt at organizing a show trial against the Mejlis and terrorizing Crimean Tatars into silence or exile.

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