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Crimean Tatar political prisoner with dangerous Covid-19 symptoms thrown into punishment cell

19.11.2020
Halya Coynash

45-year-old Teymur Abdullayev has a high temperature and other symptoms associated with coronavirus, yet instead of being taken to hospital, he has been placed in a Russian punishment cell where the conditions are especially appalling. Russia’s consistent failure to provide Ukrainian political prisoners with proper medical care is a violation of international law, and in any case where Covid-19 is concerned, it is a direct threat to life.

Ukraine’s Ombudsperson, Lyudmila Denisova has called upon her Russian counterpart to intervene over the situation, however Tatyana Moskalkova is not well-known for adequate reaction. 

According to Dilyara Abdullayeva, who is herself a doctor, her son has fever; breathlessness; a cough and is experiencing general fatigue.  All of these are symptoms which should at least prompted the prison authorities to place him in the medical unit and test him for covid-19.  Instead, his family learned after the local lawyer tried to take Abdullayev the medication that his family are forced to seek for him that he had been placed in SHIZO, a punishment  cell where his health can only deteriorate still further.  Although at 45, Abdullayev is not in the highest risk group (unlike some of Russia’s other Ukrainian political prisoners), he has been imprisoned in conditions akin to torture since October 2016, and this will have taken a considerable toll on his state of health.

Teymur Abdullayev and his brother Uzeir were among five Crimean Tatars arrested on 12 October 2016 on charges related solely to their faith. The two brothers are the grandsons of a well-known linguist and member of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.  Dilyara Abdullayeva brought them up alone, after their father died when they were very young.  Both men trained as lawyers, however became professionally involved in martial arts (taekwondo, judo and karate) with Uzeir both Ukrainian and European champion in taekwondo.  The brothers were working as trainers in Simferopol, and, before annexation, had even trained law enforcement officers, many of whom changed sides after Russia’s invasion. Some of these men took part in the arrests or as convoy guards, and one young man came up to Uzeir’s wife, Zera Abdullayeva, acknowledged that the charges against her husband were false, that Uzeir was a good man, but that “this is my job”.

The brothers’ arrests on 11 October 2016 were the fourth ‘operation’ under Russian occupation where armed and masked men burst into homes, seized law-abiding men and left their young children deeply traumatized.  One of Teymur Abdullayev’s nieces asked her mother whether the men brandishing machine guns were going to kill them.  For the children that was almost the last time that they saw their fathers.

Neither the Abdullayev brothers nor three other men from Stroganovka, near Simferopol:  Emil Dzemadenov; Rustem Ismailov and Aider Saledinov were accused of any recognizable crime.  The charges against the five men were merely of ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine and which has never committed any acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Russia’s Supreme Court ruling in 2003, declaring Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’, was almost certainly taken to enable Russia to deport Muslims back to Uzbekistan where they faced religious persecution.

The charges are backed solely by highly dubious ‘expert assessments’ given by FSB-loyal academics, who claim, for example, that a particular word or utterance indicates involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, as well as by ‘secret witnesses’.  These are individuals whose identity is concealed from the defence and whose testimony, which often seems scripted to echo the indictment, cannot be verified.  Despite countless occasions where cross-examination of such ‘witnesses’ has demonstrated that the men were lying, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) invariably finds the men ‘guilty’ and passes huge sentences.

In all such cases, the FSB designates at least one person as the ‘organizer’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group (under Article 205.5 § 1 of the Russian criminal code), while the others are changed with ‘involvement’ in the ‘cell’ (Article 205.5 § 2) . There is no obvious reason for such differences in the charges, but the difference in sentence is massive.  On 18 June 2019, Teymur Abdullayev (then 44) was sentenced to 17 years’  Uzeir Abdullayev (45) was sentenced to 13 years; Rustem Ismailov (35) – 14 years; and Emil Dzemadenov (39) and Aider Saledinov (33) to 12 years. Three of the lower sentences were actually one year higher than those asked for by the prosecutor.  Two of the three judges in this case, Anatoly Kolesnik (presiding judge); Igor Kostin and Edward Korobenko, had already taken part in at least one other such ‘trial’ . On 24 December 2019, Russia’s Supreme Court made virtually no pretence of considering the appeal and upheld the men’s convictions, merely reducing each sentence by six months.

The renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared all five men political prisoners, pointing out that the men were “tried on a terrorist charge, without being accused of terrorism”.  Human Rights Watch has also condemned such prosecutions, saying that the “Russian authorities seek to portray Crimean Tatars who oppose Russia’s occupation as ‘terrorists’ and ‘extremists’” and use “terrorism charges as a convenient tool of repression.”

All of the men are imprisoned in Russia, thousands of kilometres from their families and homes,  Please write to Teymur and Uzeir Abdullaev; Emil Dzhemadenov; Rustem Ismailov and Aider Saledinov!

The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that their actions are being followed. Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the example letter below (copying it by hand, typed letters will also not pass the censor), perhaps adding a picture or photo.  

Example letter

Привет,

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. ] 

Addresses

Teymur Abdullayev

ФКУ ИК-2 ГУФСИН России по Республике Башкортостан, 453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный

Абдуллаеву Теймуру Рза оглы 1975 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Abdullayev, Teymur Rza ogly, b. 1975]

Uzeir Abdullayev

ФКУ ИК-16 ГУФСИН России по Республике Башкортостан, 453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават

Абдуллаеву Узеиру Рза оглы 1974 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16

Abdullayev, Uzeir Rza ogly, b. 1974]

Emil Dzhemadenov

ФКУ ИК-16 ГУФСИН России по Республике Башкортостан, 453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават

Джемаденову, Эмилю Эндеровичу, 1980 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Prison No. 16

Dzhemadenov, Emil Enderovych, b. 1980]

Rustem Ismailov

ФКУ ИК-2 ГУФСИН России по Республике Башкортостан, 453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный

Исмаилову Рустему Якубовичу 1984 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Ismailov, Rustem Yakubovych, b. 1984]

Aider Saledinov

ФКУ ИК-2 ГУФСИН России по Республике Башкортостан, 453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный

Салединову Айдеру Диляверовичу 1987 г.р.

[In English:  Russian Federation, 453256, Bashkortostan, Salavat, Stantsiya Yuzhny, Prison No. 2

Saledinov, Aider Dilyaverovych, b. 1987 ]

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