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Crimean Tatar imprisoned pending ‘deportation’ for tackling Putin over Crimea

Halya Coynash

Russia, which is illegally occupying Crimea, is continuing to hold a Crimean Tatar prisoner nine months after he was seized from his homeland and threatened with so-called ‘deportation’ to Uzbekistan.  This cynical torment of 57-year-old Nedim Khalilov is almost certainly retaliation for his attempt to bring legal proceedings against Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.

In February 2016, Khalilov filed a law suit in the Central Court in occupied Simferopol, asking the court to find the actions of the occupation regime and Putin illegal.  The move was doomed from the outset, and there is nothing to indicate that it was ever heard.  Khalilov himself was, doubtless, noticed, and seven months later, on November 7, a Simferopol court ordered his ‘deportation’. 

He was taken to Krasnodar in Russia, and imprisoned in a centre for foreigners, then later moved to another such detention centre in Rostov where he remains to this day.  He was on hunger strike in protest for a considerable amount of time, while also challenging the decision in Russian-controlled courts in Crimea.  Lawyer Edem Semedlyaev reported on August 25 that the ‘High Court’ in Crimea has now rejected their application to have the deportation ruling revoked.

Nowhere to go

Russia is planning to send Khalilov to Uzbekistan, where he knows nobody and would have no means of earning a living, and nowhere to live. 

Yes, he was born in Soviet Uzbekistan in 1959, but only because his parents, like all other Crimean Tatars had been deported from Crimea in 1944.  He first tried to return to Crimea in 1986, still under Soviet control, and then as soon as Ukraine declared independence in 1991.

The problem, which Russia has cynically seized upon, is that, in protest at the Ukrainian authorities’ failure to react adequately to the needs of Crimean Tatars returning to their homeland, Khalilov publicly refused to take Ukrainian citizenship until this changed.  This was never a major problem until Russia’s invasion of Crimea, even though Khalilov was continuing to use documents of the collapsed Soviet Union.

After annexation, he formally sought to be recognized as a stateless person in order to not be in any way obliged to the Russian state which was violating his rights.

Russia has used this lack of legal clarity to treat a Crimean Tatar who has lived in Crimea since he could as a ‘foreigner’ and ‘deport’ him.

It should be noted that in other cases involving Ukrainians who did not take Russian citizenship, Russia is resorting to punitive Russification.  In order to further deprive imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko of their rights, Russia is claiming that they ‘automatically’ became Russian citizens.  With Nedim Khalilov who also dared to publicly challenge Russia over its invasion and occupation of Crimea, a Crimean Tatar living in his homeland is in danger of being deported as once were his family under Joseph Stalin.



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