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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Crimean Tatar political prisoner prefers imminent death from hunger strike to the slow torture Russia proposes

Halya Coynash

The hunger strike and rejection of all medication which Edem Bekirov is planning will certainly kill him, but that death, he believes, will be less painful than Russia’s new plans for the imprisoned Crimean Tatar activist who has only one leg and a number of potentially life-threatening illnesses. Bekirov is essentially only surviving thanks to medication provided by his family, including strong painkillers, without which he is unable to move.

Under such circumstances, Russia’s own legislation prohibits detention, yet Bekirov has been imprisoned since December 2018, charged with a crime he would not be physically capable of committing. Conditions in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison] are appalling, however he has, at least, been held recently in the SIZO’s medical unit.  This, however, could be about to change. 

The FSB ‘investigators’ have decided to pass the case against Bekirov to the Krasnoperekopsk District Court in the north of Crimea.  The very move there is likely to be gruelling, with Russia always carrying out any prisoner transfer in slow and uncomfortable fashion, with remand prisoners who have not been convicted of any crime denied all contact with their lawyers and family. It is the prospect of this move that has prompted Bekirov to write a formal statement of his intent to stop taking any food or medication.

He writes:

The Central District Court in Simferopol has issued a ruling passing my criminal case to the Krasnoperekopsk District Court.  Transportation to Krasnoperekopsk, the conditions in a temporary holding facility and being taken every day to the court is equivalent for me to a torment-filled death. I am aware that with my illnesses, I will not survive these transfers and being held in a temporary unit.

Death from hunger in SIZO No. 1 in Simferopol will therefore be less painful.  In view of this, I officially state that, in the event of an attempt to transport me to Krasnoperekopsk, I will declare hunger strike”.

This is no whim on Bekirov’s part, Ladin stresses, but his only form of protest over what would be a death sentence without having been convicted of any crime.

This is the second time that Russia’s FSB has arrested and imprisoned older Crimean Tatars involved in the Crimean Tatar national movement, and has ignored the obvious risk to their life. 

Bekirov was seized by the FSB on 12 December, 2018, when he tried to cross into Crimea to visit his elderly mother and other relatives. He was held incommunicado until well into the evening, and without food or water until the ‘court hearing’ the following day that ordered his detention for two months.  The 58-year-old is a well-known member of the Kherson oblast Crimean Tatar community, but it is likely that the FSB targeted him because of his wife, Gulnara Bekirova Aldinova, who is a member of the Mejlis, or representative assembly, of the Crimean Tatar people.  Russia’s ban of the Mejlis was directly linked with the latter’s implacable opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and identification with Ukraine.  It is refusing to comply with an order from the UN International Court of Justice to withdraw the ban on this self-governing body of the main indigenous people of Crimea.  Instead it has repeatedly fabricated criminal charges against  Mejlis leaders and other respected Crimean Tatars. 

The Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov recently told Ukrinform that Bekirov is being placed under immense pressure to claim that Chubarov himself and veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev are planning a terrorist attack in occupied Crimea.  You could not get much more cynically brutal.  A man whose life is on the line in detention is told to ‘confess’, giving false testimony against both himself and Crimean Tatar leaders in exchange, presumably, for house arrest or similar.

Russia, it should be said, has been using these tactics since 2014 when, during torture, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was told that if he didn’t provide the testimony they demanded against himself and Maidan leaders, he would “get 20 years and rot in prison”.  

Sentsov received a 20-year sentence, quite literally for nothing.

The charges against Bekirov are no less absurd.  The amputee, who walks with difficulty and swiftly gets out of breath, has been charged with circulating and transporting more than 10 kilograms of DNT and 190 bullets ((under Article 222 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code).  According to the FSB’s ‘secret witness’ whom they call ‘Memetov’, Bekirov passed the explosives and bullets – all 14 kilogram worth - to him in May 2018. Memetov purportedly placed them in a secret hiding place around Krasnoperekopsk and then in August revealed this place to the Russian FSB and gave testimony against Bekirov.

Russia’s ‘show trial’ of Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko attracted world attention and, therefore, world condemnation.  Bekirov’s ‘trial’ is supposed to take place in occupied Crimea when Russia has destroyed any independent media and is systematically imprisoning Crimean Solidarity civic journalists and activists who still dare to inform the public about politically-motivated trials. 

There are no grounds for expecting a ‘fair trial’ in this case either, however, the situation is much more serious, since Bekirov may simply not survive the treatment he is now receiving.

See more details about Bekirov’s state of health in the text below, and please sign the petition!

Help stop Russia from killing Crimean Tatar political prisoner Edem Bekirov!

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