war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Chiygoz Lawyer: Crimean Tatar non-violent resistance makes Russia nervous

Halya Coynash
Nikolai Polozov believes that the persecution and 8-year sentence of Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz were aimed at terrorizing the Crimean Tatars whose non-violent resistance makes Russia nervous. Their brutal repression has, however, had the opposite effect to what they hoped to achieve

The lawyer of imprisoned Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz believes that his client’s detention, ‘trial’ and the eight-year sentence passed on September 11 were aimed at intimidating the entire Crimean Tatar people.  Russia would prefer violent resistance which it has plenty of experience of brutally crushing.  The Crimean Tatars react to repression with non-violent resistance and that makes Moscow nervous.  So too, undoubtedly, does the fact that the mounting repression has resulted in greater solidarity and resistance among Crimean Tatars.

Nikolai Polozov noted in a recent interview that “the Crimean Tatars are the symbol of resistance in Crimea, of the struggle for freedom.  At the same time, they do not enter into active contact with the Russian enforcement bodies and do not take up arms.  Of course, that is making the Kremlin very nervous.”

It would be so much simpler (for the Kremlin), he adds, if they did use violence.  It is the peaceful, non-violent protest that has stumped the Kremlin, forcing it to seek measures to intimidate the Crimean Tatars, force them into submission.  They therefore targeted the highest-ranking Crimean Tatar left after veteran national leader Mustafa Dzhemilev and Crimean Tatar Mejlis [representative assembly] leader Refat Chubarov were banned from their homeland.

Polozov believes that this policy has had the opposite effect. “Crimean Tatars are not intimidated by such terrorization, on the contrary - Akhtem Chiygoz’ courage inspires them to continue their struggle, to continue to hold true to their principles”.

Each trial or other form of repression has in fact moved Russia ever further away from the result they hoped to achieve. 

Nikolai Polozov was not alone in warning that the conviction of his client was politically motivated and, therefore, predetermined. The very charges were absurd by definition, since Russia was illegally applying Russian law to prosecute a Ukrainian citizen over a pre-annexation demonstration on Ukrainian territory and indisputably under Ukrainian law. 

Once de facto ‘prosecutors’ and ‘judges’ refused to terminate the proceedings, the outcome was guaranteed.  However, here too Russia miscalculated.  Thanks to Polozov, Emil Kurbedinov and other lawyers, the full squalor of this case and lack of any grounds for the charges was exhaustively demonstrated during over 150 court hearings. 

The occupation regime had become nervous by July 2016 and the hitherto joint trial of Chiygoz, Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhy and three other Crimean Tatars was divided in two, with Chiygoz prevented from even attending his own trial. 

Even had the very prosecution not been farcical, the very fact that Chiygoz was unable to be present at the trial, and had to rely on a bad skype connection, meant that his right to a fair trial had been gravely violated.

The list of violations ignored by ‘judges’ Viktor Ivanovych Zinkov (presiding), Igor Igorevich Kryuchkov and Alexei Viktorovich Kozyrev is much longer. 

Not one of the witnesses who appeared in court gave any credible evidence to back the charges of organizing a mass riot.  There was no video footage showing Chiygoz doing anything but calming hotheads, and there was a lot of material demonstrating violence and provocation from certain pro-Russian activists. That was inconvenient for a case that was essentially anti-Crimean Tatar and ignored, with only pro-Russian activists treated as ‘victims’.  

The indictment was based on the testimony of three secret ‘witnesses’ and one other man – Aivaz Umirov, known for his pathological hatred for the Mejlis, Chiygoz and for his participation in the burning of an effigy of veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev.  Umirov claimed that he had twice seen Chiygoz leading aggressive action by Crimean Tatars,  Given the huge crowd , that meant he would have had to be close by, yet he cannot be seen in any of the considerable video footage and his presence that day cannot be verified.

Among its multiple grounds for declaring Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy political prisoners on Feb 16, 2016, the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre noted serious doubts about most of the supposed ‘victims’. 

Three days before the sentencing of Chiygoz, the prosecutor in the parallel trial of Asanov, Degermendzhy and three others proposed “removing 83 victims” (out of 86!) and one of the charges.

The ‘trial’ of Chiygoz was an open sham also in the fact that vital witnesses were prevented from testifying.  Refat Chubarov, the head of the Mejlis and the actual organizer of the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, had offered to come to Crimea to testify.  Russia is frightened of any leaders, which is why they banned Chubarov and Mustafa Dzhemilev from their homeland.  Here, however, it was doubtless the fact that Chubarov’s testimony would have demolished the case that prompted the prosecutor, and then the ‘judges’ to refuse to allow him to testify.

There was almost as much reason to summon the current Mufti of Crimea, Emirali Ablaev.  He was at the same demonstration, fulfilling much the same role as Chiygoz, but has since chosen to collaborate with the Russian occupiers.  It is, in fact, possible that he chose to demonstrate his new ‘loyalty’ by testifying as one of the three ‘secret witnesses’.  Whether or not that is the reason, the prosecutor and judges systematically blocked his being called as a witness.

The above are only a very small number of the grounds for ensuring that all investigators, prosecutors and judges in this appalling case are placed under international sanctions.

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