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Russia puts Crimean Tatar on trial for refusing to give false testimony about a political prisoner
The trial is shortly to begin in Russian-occupied Sevastopol of Ruslan Bekirov, a 35-year-old Crimean Tatar who had the courage in court to retract false testimony which the Russian FSB had earlier extracted by force. He also lodged a formal complaint against the FSB, and this prosecution is clearly revenge and an attempt to demonstrate what those who resist RSB lawlessness can face.
Bekirov’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, reported on 14 October 2020 that ‘the case’ against Bekirov has been passed to the Russian-controlled Nazhimovsky District Court in Sevastopol. The charge, under Article 307 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code, is of having knowingly given false testimony, although it was the testimony forced out of him in March 2019 that was false, not what Bekirov said in court several months later.
In March 2019, Bekirov was interrogated by the FSB who wanted him to testify against Enver Seitosmanov, a Crimean Tatar political prisoner who had been arrested in May 2018. Bekirov was released once he agreed to ‘testify’, however in court on 21 August 2019, he not only refused to confirm the written testimony given earlier, but described how it had been forced out of him, and also lodged a formal complaint.
He explained that he had been summoned to a police department where several armed men in FSB uniform and balaclavas twisted his arms behind his back and forced him into their car. He was taken to the FSB in Sevastopol where ‘investigator’ Yuri Andreyev began showing him ‘prohibited’ books that he claimed had been removed from the home of Bekirov’s mother. He also played a recording, claiming that the voice on it was Bekirov’s and that it proved his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is the peaceful pan-Islamist party which is legal in Ukraine, but which Russia has labelled ‘terrorist’ and is using to persecute Crimean Tatar activists and other Muslims in occupied Crimea. Such charges can result in a sentence of 10-20 years’ imprisonment and there are, unfortunately, no grounds for believing that Russian and Russian-controlled courts would not pass the sentences demanded of them.
Both in court on 21 August 2019 and in his statement to the Investigative Committee’s Central Military Department, Bekirov explained that “Andreyev printed some document and demanded that I sign it. I read it – the document asserted that I was testifying that Enver Seytosmanov is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I refused to sign the document. After that, Andreyev and another FSB employee, introduced as Fyodor, began threatening that if I didn’t sign, they would imprison me for ten years. That I would never see my parents again. That I would be imprisoned with infected prisoners, including those suffering from tuberculosis, that I would be sent to serve a sentence far from my home and my parents, that I would rot in prison, that they would fine me two hundred thousand roubles. All of this was accompanied by pressing demands that I sign the document testifying against Seytosmanov.”
Andreyev demanded also that he sign another document with false testimony against other Crimean Tatar political prisoners from Sevastopol. He gave him a list of questions which he would be asked in court.
Bekirov was released after many hours and only after he agreed to sign the documents.
It was on 21 August 2019, before the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) that Bekirov told the damning truth about the methods used to force him to lie about Seytosmanov. On 16 October that year, Kurbedinov, who is also Seytosmanov’s lawyer, announced that he had received a response to this complaint from the Military-Investigative Committee acknowledging “indications of a crime” in the actions of the FSB officers.
It was, however, Bekirov who was detained on 11 June 2020. The FSB turned up at his home in Orlinoye in occupied Crimea, carried out a search and then took him to the FSB offices in Sevastopol. He was finally released many hours later, being forced to give a signed undertaking to not leave the area, and is now to be put on trial for having told the truth.
This is a very worrying development. Virtually all of the politically motivated prosecutions of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in occupied Crimea are based on ‘testimony’ which many of the political prisoners have said that they gave under torture. We also know from men who were ‘interrogated’ as witnesses that similar methods were applied against them. To an arsenal of torture and threats of criminal charges and guaranteed long sentences, the Russian FSB are now adding trials for giving false testimony where men are courageous enough to retract the lies.
The 33-year-old recognized political prisoner was sentenced to 17 years’ maximum security imprisonment on 5 December 2019, with that sentence upheld on 16 April 2020. He had not been charged with any recognizable crime and the ‘evidence’ which was supposed to prove his ‘involvement’ in a peaceful organization did nothing of the kind. There were also serious grounds for believing that the charges were increased in April this year for highly suspect reasons. More details here:
PLEASE WRITE TO ENVER! Any letter or card tells him that he is not forgotten, and also send an important message to the Kremlin that they are under scrutiny.. They do, unfortunately, 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. It is good to enclose thin paper and an envelope, giving your address clearly in case he is able to reply.
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. ]
453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ИК-16
Сейтосманову, Энверу Кязимовичу, 1986 г.р.
[In English: Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16
Seitosmanov, Enver Kyazimovich, b. 10.11.1986