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.

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Russia hides imprisoned Ukrainian human rights activist on hunger strike

Halya Coynash
Ukrainian political prisoner Emir-Usein Kuku “has been returned” to the Russian prison from where he disappeared on the morning of 10 July. It is possible that the secrecy about Kuku’s whereabouts was to prevent his lawyer from seeing the human rights activist who has been on hunger strike since 26 June

Ukrainian political prisoner Emir-Usein Kuku “has been returned” to the Russian SIZO [remand prison] in Rostov, from where he disappeared on the morning of 10 July. It is quite possible that the SIZO’s refusal to tell Kuku’s lawyer Sergei Loktev any more than that Kuku had been taken away was a deliberate ploy to prevent Loktev from seeing the human rights activist who has been on hunger strike since 26 June. Like fellow Crimean political prisoner Oleg Sentsov, Kuku is demanding that Russia release all of the over 70 Ukrainians it is holding prisoner on politically motivated charges and / or for their faith.  There has been effectively no contact with Kuku or the other five Ukrainians currently ‘on trial’ with him, and the visit was therefore very important.  Nor was the SIZO head in any hurry to reply to Loktev’s written demand for information, with it only becoming clear close to evening that Kuku was back at the SIZO.  It is to be hoped that he was receiving a medical check given his 14 days on hunger strike.

Kuku has long been recognized as a political prisoner by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre, together with Muslim Aliev; Refat Alimov; Envir Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov and Vadim Siruk.  Kuku is also one of Amnesty International’s prisoners of conscience. 

Kuku was one of the first Crimean Tatars to face persecution by the Russian FSB in occupied Crimea for his human rights work and / or civic activism. 

Harassment began long before any mention was made of the current charges which Russia is using to imprison him.  The son of a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, Kuku reacted to the armed searches of homes and mosques within months of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, as well as the disappearances of young Crimean Tatars by joining the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights.  He was responsible for monitoring rights abuse in the Yalta region. 

On April 20, 2015, Kuku was himself, almost certainly, the victim of an attempted abduction, which turned into an ‘FSB’ detention, beating and search only after Kuku’s shouts attracted attention (Details here:  When Abduction Turns to FSB ’Search’ in Russian-occupied Crimea)

According to lawyer Alexander Popkov,Alexander Kompaneitsev, a former SBU turncoat, now working for the FSB, had very early on tried to get Kuku to inform on fellow Muslims.  During the abduction-cum-search on April 20, 2015, he openly threatened him with the consequences if he refused.  He has turned up so far twice in the SIZO [remand prison] and tried, just as unsuccessfully, to get Kuku to ‘collaborate’. 

Kuku refused to be silenced about the attempted abduction and demanded an investigation. This produced contradictory statements from the FSB officers and probably renewed determination to get rid of Kuku. 

On December 3, 2015, new charges were announced under Russia’s notorious ‘extremism’ laws.  This was over material posted on his Facebook page, once again with no mention of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the organization which he is now alleged to have been involved in.

On February 11, 2016, Kompaneitsev took part in armed searches of the homes of Kuku; Aliev; Bekirov and Siruk.   On April 18 that year, the two youngest men, Alimov (who is Bekirov’s nephew) and Dzhepparov were also arrested

Bekirov has testified in court that the same Kompaneitsev appeared at the Simferopol SIZO and threatened that his nephew would be arrested if he did not give false testimony against the others.  Dzhepparov was several times stopped by the FSB and unambiguously warned that he would be arrested if he didn’t agree to act as an FSB ‘informer’, i.e. providing the ‘testimony’ required of him.

All the men refused to ‘cooperate’ with the FSB, and all are facing sentences of from 10 years to life imprisonment without any having committed a crime.

Russia began persecuting people for alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir soon after the Russian Supreme Court in 2003 declared this peaceful pan-Islamist movement ‘terrorist’.  Hizb ut-Tahrir is not known to have committed an act of terrorism anywhere in the world and is legal in Ukraine and most countries. The Supreme Court kept the ruling secret until it was too late for Hizb ut-Tahrir or rights organizations to challenge it, and never provided a good reason for its decision.  No more, however, was needed as justification for the FSB, Russia’s security service, to conduct mass prosecutions, with men receiving sentences of up to life imprisonment merely on the unproven charge that they were ‘involved’ in the organization.

This is the second ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir case’ against Ukrainian Muslims since Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, and it is no accident that in both cases, Memorial has seen no reason to wait for convictions before declaring the men political prisoners. 

Crimea is territory which Russia is occupying illegally and in accordance with international law, it has no right to change Ukrainian criminal legislation and replace it with its own.  Hizb ut-Tahrir is absolutely legal in Ukraine.

In its blistering analysis, Memorial HRC noted that ““Hizb ut-Tahrir cases are among the so-called ‘serial’ cases: the FSB obtains ‘high results’ (dozens of convictions) for minimum effort, practising mass persecution without any grounds”.

They expend minimum effort and get maximum benefit for themselves, since these cases are known to earn FSB officers promotions or other benefits.

One of the points of such FSB conveyor belt prosecutions is that they all follow the same pattern, with one ‘organizer’ and several people who face the less serious charge of ‘involvement’.

Muslim Aliev has been designated the role of ‘organizer’, under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code, with this carrying a sentence of up to life imprisonment.  The other men are charged with ‘involvement’ under Article 205.5 § 2 with the sentence up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

It should be stressed that the prosecution’s case is not based on any real evidence at all.  Sergei Legostov, Aliev’s lawyer, says that the only ‘evidence’ against Aliev and the five other men is part of a linguistic-religious ‘expert assessment’ of a recorded conversation “in the kitchen” where the men were discussing the situation in Russia, Ukraine, the fate of Crimea, the place of Islam in both countries and various religious postulates.

It is essentially on the basis of this one excerpt that Aliev could face up to life imprisonment and Kuku, Alimov, Bekirov; Dzhepparov and Siruk could be imprisoned for 10 – 20 years. 

Please write to Emir-Usein Kuku; Muslim Aliev; Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; and Vadim Siruk

The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that the ‘trial’ now underway is being followed. 

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the crib letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. 

Example letter


Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 


The men have been split up, with Aliev and Kuku in SIZO-4, the other men in SIZO-1 (the differences are small, so please copy carefully).  The address each time, should have the man’s full name, and year of birth.

Emir-Usein Kuku

344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Куку, Эмиру-Усеину Кемаловичу, 1976 г.р.   

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]


344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]


344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Enver Bekirov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Бекирову, Энверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Bekirov, Enver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Vadim Siruk

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]


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