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.

Crimean Tatar political prisoners face surreal terrorism charges that the prosecutor can’t explain

Halya Coynash

Three Crimean Tatar political prisoners have told a court in Russia that they are Ukrainian citizens, with the two of them who also have Russian citizenship saying that it was forced upon them.  All three men rejected the charges against them of involvement in a peaceful organization which is legal in Ukraine and were scathing about the use of ‘terrorism’ legislation against them for reading books and observing their faith.  In this, as in virtually all such Russian prosecutions of Ukrainian Muslims, at least one of the men, Rustem Emiruseinov appears to have been targeted for his civic activism in defence of political prisoners.

The hearing at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov on 29 January 2020 was the first into the actual charges against 40-year-old Rustem Emiruseinov; Arsen Abkhairov (32) and the youngest of all of Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners, 22-year-old Eskender Abdulganiev.  Despite his young age, it was Abdulganiev whose brief statement most powerfully highlighted the nature of the charges against these men.

I reject the charges. It is those who have imprisoned us here who are criminals. The charges against us are based on pseudo expert assessments and secret witnesses. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, they are now fighting Islam. Terrorism is about bombs, arson attacks and causing damage.  Reading books is not included in that.  The fight against terrorism and extremism in Russia is about crushing dissident views.”

Emiruseinov said that he considered that the case is politically motivated and that they were on trial solely because they are Crimean Tatars and Muslims, practising their faith, and holding flash mobs and expressing their view on the annexation of Crimea.  He cited the Fourth Geneva Convention, and also noted that you can charge anyone with extremism by planting material that is banned in the Russian Federation.

Emiruseinov actively attended ‘court hearings’ in the cases of political prisoners and also took part in the online flash-mob entitled ‘Muslims are not terrorists’.  This followed the series of single-person pickets in October 2017, after 76-year-old Server Karametov was imprisoned for 10 days after standing in defence of political prisoners with a placard reading: ‘Putin, our children are not terrorists!’.  When asked by Krym.Realii whether her husband had been involved in Crimean Solidarity, Aliye Emiruseinova asked a counter-question: “Can you tell me how it is possible in Crimea to not be involved in Crimean Solidarity if you have a conscience?”

During the hearing, the prosecutor Igor Nadolinksy read out a list of the supposed material evidence in the case which did, indeed, consist of disks, books and other devices for storing information.  Emiruseinov insists that two of the disks and a book entitled ‘The concept of Hizb ut-Tahrir’ were planted on him.  There have been repeated complaints that this is how the FSB are obtaining their ‘proof’.

The disks in question contain testimony from people belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir and discussing the organization’s ideology.  As mentioned, Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine and most other countries.  It is not known to have committed acts of terrorism anywhere in the world, and Russia is literally the only country to have declared it ‘terrorist’.  Russia is now using such ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir cases’ to spread fear in occupied Crimea and to try to crush the Crimean Tatar human rights movement.

Abdulganiev’s lawyer Ruslan Kyamilev read out to the court the provisions of the Geneva Convention which Russia is gravely violating by the very fact that it is using its legislation on occupied territory.  He also read reports from the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights about flagrant human rights violations in occupied Crimea. 

Kyamilev also noted that even according to Russia’s own definition of terrorist activities, there was nothing in the impugned activities of the men on the trial, nor in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir itself, that fall under that definition.  The charges against the three men are of a purely abstract nature, based solely on books allegedly found during the armed searches on 14 February 2019. 

The lawyer accordingly asked a large number of highly pertinent questions regarding the indictment that prosecutor Nadolinsky had read out.  How was this alleged ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir cell’ supposed to have recruited people; what demonstrated their ‘terrorist activities’?; how were they supposed to have worked against the law enforcement bodies?, etc.  Kyamilev was evidently reciting the claims made by the prosecution when he asked to know “who Abdulganiev formed his ideological dependence and extremist views from”, and how these were demonstrated.

Should there be any doubts as to why the defence sought such clarification, the prosecution is claiming that Emiruseinov wanted to create a world Caliphate on the territory of CIS and through the entire world by means of ‘militant propaganda’.  He supposedly created a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in the Krasnogvardeisk district (where the three men live) and recruited Abdulganiev and Abkhairov into this cell. They allegedly held secret meetings “in order to gain special knowledge for extremist activities in the Russian Federation”.

This nonsense could turn into a sentence of up to life imprisonment in Emiruseinov’s case (under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code ‘organizing’  a group which Russia has claimed is terrorist’) , with Abkhairov and Abdulganiev facing sentences of from 10 to 20 years for supposed ‘involvement’ in this group  (Article 205.5 § 2). 

The next hearing is scheduled for 4 February.

Emiruseinov and his wife have a 16-year-old son, Ali, and two daughters, 12-year-old Aishe and 9-year-old Khatidzhe.  Abkhairov and his wife, Azize, have two very small children.  22-year-old Abdulganiev does not have a family of his own, but is his parents’ only child.  It is effectively impossible to get medical treatment, schooling, etc. for children in occupied Crimea without Russian documents which may be the reason why it is Abdulganiev who has only Ukrainian citizenship. 


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 sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer.

Sample 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 envelopes can be written in Russian or English as below.

Rustem Emiruseinov

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

Эмирусеинову, Рустему Решатовичу, 1979 г.р.

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

Emiruseinov, Rustem Reshatovich, b. 1979 ]

Eskender Abdulganiev

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

Абдулганиеву, Эскендеру Иззетовичу, 1998 г.р.

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

Abdulganiev, Eskender Izzetovich, b. 1988 ]

Arsen Abkhairov

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

Абхаирову, Арсену Ремзиевичу, 1987 г.р.

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

Abkhairov, Arsen Remzievich, b. 1987 ]


 Share this