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 spends year in torture conditions for refusing to collaborate

Halya Coynash

Teymur Abdullayev Photo Dilyara Abdullayeva

Teymur Abdullayev has spent virtually all of the last year in a Russian SHIZO or punishment cell, where the conditions are tantamount to torture.  His lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, reports that the Crimean Tatar political prisoner is receiving particularly bad treatment because he rejected attempts by the Russian FSB to get him to collaborate with them, by providing testimony against others, etc.  Kurbedinov adds that the FSB essentially hinted that he was being punished for refusing to cave in.  The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] has now begun monitoring the situation which is causing a severe, and potentially life-threatening, deterioration in Abdullayev’s state of health.

During the last (virtual) meeting of the Crimean Solidarity civic initiative, Kurbedinov gave details of the kind of treatment that Teymur Abdullayev has been subjected to since his arrival at the prison colony in Salavat (Bashkortostan) in March 2020.  While it is part of the standard brutality towards political prisoners for them to be placed in punishment cells immediately after their arrival, Abdullayev has spent scarcely any time outside such a cell,  He has therefore been held most of the time in solitary confinement in a small cell, where the bunk bed is only lowered for several hours from late at night, and raised by about 4-5 a.m.  This means that Abdullayev can only stand or sit on an uncomfortable wooden stool for most hours of the day.   These are, Kurbedinov stressed, torture conditions and he reiterated the words from his colleague Nikolai Polozov, that there needs to be constant monitoring of the conditions that all political prisoners are held in, both in SIZO, or remand prison, and in prison colonies

Abdullayev contracted Covid-19 in November 2020, yet despite having a high temperature and other typical symptoms, he was yet again placed in a punishment cell, rather than being admitted to the prison medical unit.  

Abdullayev’s health in general has seriously deteriorated and a local lawyer who recently visited him reported suspected hypertensive crisis.  His mother, Dilyaver Abdullayeva, is herself a doctor and is in no doubt that the Russian prison authorities are risking her son’s life. His blood pressure is constantly high, at 190 over 100, with this carrying the threat of a stroke or heart attack.  She believes that the fact that the lower of the two readings is so high suggests that his organism is being poisoned.  His kidneys are also not functioning properly, and how could they, she asks, when he gets almost no liquids, and never anything hot?

A request has been made to the OHCHR to impose urgent measures.  As always, Russia has responded by claiming that there are no violations, and no danger to Abdullayev.  Kurbedinov stresses, however, that they are continuing to seek this and have also lodged several complaints with the courts. 

Teymur and his brother Uzeir Abdullayev, Emil Dzemadenov; Rustem Ismailov and Aider Saledinov have been imprisoned since 12 October 2016.  All have been recognized as political prisoners by the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre, and their release has been demanded in countless UN, OSCE, European Parliament and other resolutions.  As well as pointing to the gravely flawed charges against the men, Memorial HRC has also stressed here and in all such ‘trials’ of Crimean Tatars and other Crimean Ukrainians that Russia is an occupying state, and as such is in breach of international law by using its own legislation on occupied territory. Russia has also been found in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family life) through its imprisonment of prisoners very far from their homes.  Most of the Crimean Ukrainians are held in Russia, thousands of kilometres from their families.

Teymur and Uzeir Abdullayev 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 arrests of the five men from Stroganovka (near Simferopol) on 12 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.

Not one of the men was accused of any recognizable crime, merely of so-called ‘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.

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


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. ] 


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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