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Russia refuses to release Ukrainian jailed by mistake in occupied Crimea

Halya Coynash

Among the Ukrainians imprisoned since Russia’s invasion of Crimea for their  opposition to annexation, their religious views or civic activism, one person stands out.  Kabir Mohammad has been in custody now for nearly nine months because Russian border guards misread his name.  Literally. He is not wanted by Iran, not on the INTERPOL wanted list, yet a Crimean court under Russian control has yet again extended his detention until September 13, 2017, by which time he will have been imprisoned for one year.

Kabir Mohammad has now written a letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General, pleading with him to intervene and pointing out that INTERPOL has confirmed that he is not on the wanted list.  His two small children who have been without their father now for close on a year. 

He does mention that he was detained in Crimea a month after he was appointed one of the leaders of an Afghan party ‘Homeland’ [Vatan]. 

The problem with such a political motive is that it would really only make sense if Mohammad were a powerful force in the party who needed to be removed at any cost.

The other explanation is more banal and cynical, but probably not to be discarded.

Mohammad came to Ukraine originally in 1986 to study medicine.  He settled in Ukraine, married Oksana who is from Poltava and the couple have a son and a daughter.  He has been a Ukrainian citizen since 2012.

The family live in Boryspil (Kyiv oblast) and decided to visit Crimea after Mohammad suffered a stroke and was advised to spend time at the sea.  

Oksana Mohammad reported several months ago that her husband had had a second stroke while being held in the SIZO [remand prison[ and that he had been given no medical assistance.  There has been at least one health alarm since then.

The conditions in the SIZO are generally appalling, with at least twice as many men as there are bunks held in cold and damp cells.  There are also problems with getting medication to him since the SIZO accepts only medication with Russian certificates.

The family tried to cross into Crimea on September 14, 2016.  Mohammad was seized by Russian border guards that day because a person with a different name but same country of origin had been placed on the INTERPOL wanted list at Iran’s request.  The person on the border guards’ list was an Afghanistan national called Mohammad Kabir Niyazi.  Although only two of the three names coincided, and the surname was different, the border guards decided that this was sufficient to detain him. 

At least three Russian-controlled ‘courts’ in Crimea have also found this adequate reason to continue depriving Kabir Mohammad of his liberty and his children of their father. 

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