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.

Russia passes monstrous sentences without any crime against three Crimean Tatar political prisoners

Halya Coynash
Rustem Emiruseinov; Arsen Abkhairov and Eskender Abdulganiev were never accused of any recognizable crime, yet a Russian court has sentenced them to 17, 13 and 12 years’ imprisonment

Russia’s trial of Rustem Emiruseinov; Arsen Abkhairov and Eskender Abdulganiev began with the three recognized Crimean Tatar political prisoners and their lawyers stating that they did not understand the charges.  10 months later, it is clear only that they were not accused of any crime, yet a Russian court has passed sentences of 17, 13 and 12 years.  The men appeared in court in T-shirts, reading “Studying religion is not terrorism” and pointing to how in 1944 the Soviet regime falsely labelled Crimean Tatars ‘traitors’ in order to justify Stalin’s Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people.  Under Russian occupation, Crimean Tatars are increasingly labelled ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’, also without any justification.

The three men were, indeed, charged under Russia’s ‘terrorism’ legislation, but the charge was merely of unproven ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine and most countries.  Hizb ut-Tahrir was declared ‘terrorist’ by Russia’s Supreme Court back in 2003 in a secret ruling almost certainly issued in order to enable Russia to forcibly return Uzbek refugees to Uzbekistan where they were in fact facing religious persecution.  Russia is now using such entirely fictitious ‘terrorism’ charges as a form of intimidation and repression in occupied Crimea, especially targeting Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists from the civic initiative Crimean Solidarity.   

41-year-old Rustem Emiruseinov is a Crimean Solidarity activist who visited political trials, took part in flash-mobs protesting against mounting repression and in other ways helped political prisoners.  This was enough for him to be charged under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code (‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’) and sentenced on 3 November to 17 years’ imprisonment – two in a prison, the harshest of Russian penitentiary institutions, and then 15 in a harsh regime prison colony.  Arsen Abkhairov and Eskender Abdulganiev were accused of ‘involvement’ in this non-existent ‘group’ under Article 205.5 § 2, and sentenced to 13 and 12 years, respectively, also with the first two years in prisons.  The Russian FSB also added the even more surreal charge (under Article 278) of ‘planning to violently seize power’.  This additional charge is believed by the Memorial Human Rights Centre to be generally used against people who refuse to ‘cooperate’ with the investigators (which all Crimeans in these cases have refused to do).

All of these charges are literally based solely on the 2003 Supreme Court ruling which has never been adequately explained.  The existence of that ruling, which was kept totally secret until it was too late to be appealed against, means that the FSB need only ‘prove’ involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.  This, in turn, is extremely easy as the FSB has its own ‘linguistic experts’ who will listen to any illicitly taped conversation and claim that this word, or that subject, means that a person is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.  In this case, the conversation was about bringing up children in a Muslim family.  Emiruseinov has a son and two daughters, Abkhairov – a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.  Abdulganiev was just 21 when arrested, and was still just dreaming of marrying and having a family of his own. 

As well as this innocuous taped conversation, the FSB also used a book planted during the armed searches carried out on 14 February 2019 as ‘evidence’, with such illegal methods doubtless the reason why lawyers, who arrived to represent the men, were unlawfully prevented from being present at the searches. 

The FSB also use ‘secret witnesses’, whose testimony, echoing the charges, cannot be checked.  There are no grounds for concealing any witness’ testimony, however the court invariably allows the prosecution’s demand for such secrecy, even when the defence demonstrates that the person’s testimony is contradictory, that he is obviously being prompted by somebody in the room with him, etc.  On 22 September 2020, the European Court of Human Rights issued an important judgement (the Case of Vasilyev and Others v. Russia  which found that Russia’s unwarranted use of such alleged ‘witnesses’ was a violation of the applicants’ right to a fair trial.

Everything about the trial of the three Crimean Tatars was a violation of this fundamental right, yet on 3 November 2020, presiding judge Ruslan Plisko, together with Igor Kostin and Yevgeny Zviagin sentenced three innocent men to terms of imprisonment far higher than those Russian judges generally pass against people convicted, on real grounds, of violent crimes.   The sentences were slightly lower than those demanded by prosecutors Valery Kuznetsov and Igor Nadolinsky, but horrifically long

The renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre declared all three men political prisoners back in January 2020.  It considers all such ‘terrorism’ charges based solely on claims of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir to be flawed, but has repeatedly pointed out in the case of Crimean Tatars, that Russia is also in breach of international law which prohibits an occupying state from applying its legislation on occupied territory.  The situation is especially shocking here as Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine.

The sentences will, of course, be appealed, but there are, unfortunately, no grounds for expecting justice from any Russian court.  Please contact your elected representatives and human rights groups in your country and ask them to demand real sanctions against Russia and all of those individuals involved in such travesties of justice.  

And please do write to Rustem EmiruseinovArsen Abkhairov and Eskender Abdulganiev!  The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that their persecution 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.


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. 1997 ]

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 ]



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