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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Fears mount for Crimean Tatar political prisoner suffering Covid-19 complications in Russian torture conditions

Halya Coynash
Teymur Abdullayev has spent 14 months in a ‘punishment cell’ almost certainly for his refusal to provide the FSB with false testimony aimed at imprisoning other Crimean Tatars who have committed no crime
Teymur Abdullayev Photo Crimean Solidarity

A Russian court in 2019 sentenced Teymur Abdullayev to 17 years’ imprisonment, without any crime, and now Russian prison staff are subjecting the 46-year-old Crimean Tatar political prisoner to effective torture by failing to provide proper medical care and holding him in a SHIZO, or punishment cell.  His mother, a doctor, is seriously concerned by his condition, and suspects that he is suffering from inflammatory cardiomyopathy, or an inflammation of the heart muscle, as a result of having contracted Covid-19 in November 2020.  He should have been placed in a medical unit back then, but was instead simply returned to the SHIZO and his general state of health has accordingly deteriorated still further.   

Veteran Russian human rights defender, Lev Ponomaryov has sent the head of the Penal Service in Bashkortostan a formal request for information about why Abdullayev has been held in SHIZO for so long.  For the moment, no answer has been forthcoming.  Russia is holding a very large number of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners in captivity, with many of them constantly thrown into punishment cells on fabricated charges or held in near permanent solitary confinement.  Teymur Abdullayev believes that he has spent almost all of the last 14 months in SHIZO because of his refusal to collaborate with Russia’s FSB by providing the false testimony they demand against other Crimean Tatars.  There is considerable evidence that the FSB are using pressure, torture and threats of imprisonment to obtain such ‘testimony’, and Abdullayev would not be the first political prisoner to face reprisals for rejecting such demands.

Serious long-term symptoms after Covid are experienced even by people who were in good health before their illness and who received proper treatment.  Teymur Abdullayev and his brother, Uzeir, have been imprisoned, in the appalling conditions of Russian-controlled Crimean or Russian penal institutions since 12 October 2016, and their health has been gravely compromised.  Proper medical tests are clearly required, but are not being provided.  In March this year, Abdullayev’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov reported that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] had begun monitoring the situation.  The problem is, however, that the prison staff invariably claim that everything was in accordance with regulations, and without the detailed list of alleged ‘infringements’ which Lev Ponomaryov has yet to be given, it is difficult to fight this.  The same applies to concerns about Abdullayev’s state of health in the absence of a proper medical examination and tests.

The very conditions of a SHIZO are highly detrimental to ones state of health.  A person has virtually no time outside a tiny, badly heated, 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.  Russia has 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. In the case of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners, Russia is also in breach of the Geneva Convention which expressly prohibits an occupying state from taking citizens from occupied territory.

Teymur and his brother Uzeir Abdullayev, Emil Dzemadenov; Rustem Ismailov and Aider Saledinov have been imprisoned for close on five years.  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.. 

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 HELP Teymur and other political prisoners by asking politicians and human rights NGOs in your country to react to such inhuman treatment in violation of international law.  Please also 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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