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Crucial law adopted to help Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages

27.01.2022
Halya Coynash

Wall of armed and masked ’officers’, children of 36-year-old Erfan Osmanov arrested on 23.03.2019

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada has finally adopted a long-needed bill that will provide social and legal aid to the huge number of political prisoners, hostages and prisoners of war, held in captivity in Russia or occupied Crimea and Donbas, and their families.  The bill endorsed on 26 January 2022 by 288 MPs, is the most important of three tabled as urgent by President Volodymyr Zelensky on 27 September 2021. 

Draft law No. 6104 ‘On the social and legal protection of persons deprived of their liberty as a result of the armed aggression against Ukraine, as well as members of their families’ will create the legislative mechanisms to ensure that critical assistance gets to the Kremlin’s hostages and / or their families.  

Such mechanisms have been urgently required for years now, with one of the problems with previous legislative attempts being the lack of clear criteria as to who was entitled to such aid and who should decide on such entitlement.  Article 2 of the bill now passed in its second, and final, reading provides clearer definition.  The categories of prisoners include: military personnel taken prisoner by the aggressor state or its bodies while defending Ukraine; civilian hostages and political prisoners. 

The bill also envisages the creation of a special Commission for issues linked with establishing whether people have been stripped of their liberty through the armed conflict.

It entitles Kremlin hostages and members of their families of annual payment while they are imprisoned. A one-off amount of aid is also envisaged should the person die or be killed while imprisoned or should they die in the year following their release.  There will also be a one-off payment after a person is released.

The bill also provides a guarantee of legal defence and compensation for legal assistance; guarantee of free secondary legal assistance both while imprisoned and following release; medical and psychological assistance and rehabilitation, etc. after release.  Very importantly, it covers such areas as housing (providing temporary accommodation); employment rights; the right to education and professional training, etc. following a person’s release, as well as, for example, rebates in organizing internal or external passports, etc.

Of the 116 Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in occupied Crimea or Russia, a significant percentage are fathers who were the main breadwinners of the family. Crimean Tatar civic initiatives have provided the aid they can, but it is clearly time that the Ukrainian state provided systematic assistance for its citizens, imprisoned for their civic activism; political or religious beliefs.  An ever increasing number of the Crimean political prisoners are civic journalists from Crimean Solidarity who are facing persecution for their courageous work in reporting on repression under Russian occupation.

It is also extremely important that released hostages and political prisoners will be provided with more systematic ongoing assistance.   

There are at least 270 military and civilian hostages on the territory of Russia’s proxy ‘republics’, very many of whom have been held and tortured at secret prisons, like ‘Izolyatsia’ in occupied Donetsk.

Political prisoners in occupied Crimea or Russia

Russia’s ‘favourite’ types of persecution:

Religious persecution and / or persecution of Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists.  Fake ‘terrorism’ charges are applied, with men accused of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful transnational Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine and which is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Crimean Tatars or other Ukrainian Muslims, once arrested, face imprisonment for up to 20 years, without being accused of a recognizable crime.

Religious persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Three Ukrainians have already received 6 or 6.5 year sentences, and many others are on trial now, or under house arrest.

‘Ukrainian saboteur’ charges without any acts of sabotage having been committed, and with evidence that the men were subjected to torture.

As of 2021, these include Nariman Dzelyal, Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader and world-known journalist and civic activist, and freelance journalist Vladislav Yesypenko.

Mystery ‘spying’ charges

Punitive psychiatry

Revenge for involvement in the Euromaidan protests in mainland Ukraine

Others

Membership, in mainland Ukraine, of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes.  At present, a number of Crimean Tatars are imprisoned for up to 10 years for involvement in the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which, despite its name, is not an armed formation and is not illegal in Ukraine.

The list below is of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia.  Where possible, the links include addresses for writing to them.  Please try to write to at least one – the letters are a lifeline for them, and a clear message to Moscow that its actions are being watched.  

‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof 

Nariman Dzhelyal

Asan Akhtemov

Aziz Akhtemov

Vladislav Yesypenko

See also: Russia seeks to imprison tenth Crimean journalist for 18 years

Oleh Prykhodko  

Andriy Zakhtei

Oleksiy Bessarabov

Volodymyr Dudka

Dmytro Shtyblikov

Hennady Lymeshko  

Kostyantin Davydenko 

Denis Kashuk

Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions 

Sevastopol Crimean Tatars

Ruslan Zeytullaev

(Ferat SaifullaevRustem Vaitov and Nuri Primov were released in early 2020, having served their sentences to the end.  )

10 May 2018           Enver Seytosmanov

The Yalta Six   - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.            

Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him.  See:

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it”

Muslim Aliev  

See: Stalin took Crimean Tatar Dilyara Alieva’s homeland and parents; Putin’s Russia has taken her son

Inver Bekirov

Vadim Siruk

Arsen Dzhepparov

Refat Alimov

Bakhchysarai Four  - four men arrested on 12 May 2016

Enver Mamutov

Rustem Abiltarov

Zevri Abseitov

Remzi Memetov

Simferopol Five   - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions

Teymur Abdullayev

Uzeir Abdullayev

See:  “Mama, have they come to kill us?” Russia’s new-old terror and deportation of Crimean Tatars

Emil Dzhemadenov

Aider Saledinov

Rustem Ismailov

Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests    

Suleiman (Marlen) Asanov  - a civic journalist sentenced to 19 years

Ernes Ametov  

Memet Belyalov 

Timur Ibragimov     a civic journalist

Seiran Saliyev   a civic journalist

Server Zekiryaev  

Server Mustafayev

Edem Smailov

14 February 2019 

Rustem Emiruseinov  a civic activist

Arsen Abkhairov

Eskender Abdulganiev 

27 March 2019  ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia.  Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleimanov were arrested later.

Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist

Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist

Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Rayim Aivazov  Crimean Solidarity activist, tortured during his ‘arrest’

Enver Ametov  actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Osman Arifmemetov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

Farkhod Bazarov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Remzi Bekirov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings.  Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention. 

Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Riza Izetov  human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist

Seiran Murtaza  actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.

Yashar Muyedinov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Seitveli Seitabdiev  Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Sheikhaliev  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Eskender Suleimanov,  Crimean Solidarity activist.

Ruslan Suleimanov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist

Asan Yanikov  civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.

10 June 2019  FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”   

Three men, including a father and son, from Bilohirsk (Rus. Belogorsk)

Aider Dzhapparov

Enver Omerov

Riza Omerov

Alushta Group

Lenur Khalilov

Ruslan Mesutov

Ruslan Nagayev

Eldar Kantimirov, a civic activist

11 March 2020   Another ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and their relatives

Seitumer Seitumerov

Osman Seitumerov  (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seitumerov)

Rustem Seitmemetov  (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)

Amet Suleimanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet). 

7 July 2020  New FSB low, with arrest of a blind man with limited mobility and many others.  At least four of the men Vadim Bektemirov; Alexander Sizikov; Alim Sufianov and Emil Ziyadinov all took part in measures to help political prisoners and ensure circulation of information about such repression

Vadim Bektemirov a civic activist

Ismet Ibragimov

Seiran Khairedinov

Zekirya Muratov

Alexander Sizikov 

Alim Sufianov  a civic activist

Emil Ziyadinov  a Crimean Solidarity activist

17 February 2021  New offensive against civic activists with the armed searches evidently only for so-called ‘prohibited literature’ 

Azamat Eyupov  

Oleh Fedorov

Ernest Ibragimov 

Lenur Seidametov 

Yashar Shikhametov 

Timur Yalkabov

17 August 2021  Arrests of five Crimean Tatars, all of whom were involved in civic activism in solidarity with political prisoners.  One of the men, Rustem Muratov had literally just returned from Rostov and acts of solidarity with the four political prisoners from Alushta who received horrific sentences.

Zavur Abdullayev

Dzhebbar Bekirov

Rayif Fevziyev

Rustem Murasov

Rustem Tayirov 

Religious Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serhiy Filatov   (address here)

Artem Gerasimov  (address here)

Viktor Stashevsky

Ihor Schmidt

Yevhen Zhukov

Volodymyr Maladyka

Volodymyr Sakada

Artem Shabliy

Taras Kuzio

Darya Kuzio

Petro Zhiltsov

Mystery ‘spying’

Ivan Yatskin  sentenced to 11 years, almost certainly for his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea

Valentin Vyhivsky  Imprisoned since September 2014

Viktor Shur  imprisoned since December 2014

Leonid Parkhomenko  

Vladimir Morgunov

66-year-old Halyna Dovhopola, sentenced to 12 years probably for her pro-Ukrainian position

Oleksandr Marchenko 

Kostyantin Shyrinh

Vasyl Vasylenko  

Stanislav Stetsenko

Yevhen Petrushin

Punitive psychiatry

Yunus Masharipov a human rights activist

Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mykola Shyptur  imprisoned since March 2014

Andriy Kolomiyets   

Imprisoned for membership, in mainland Ukraine, of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes.  Most are accused of membership in the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which is not an armed formation

Maxim Filatov

Fevzi Sahandzhy

Edem Kadyrov

Dilyaver Gafarov

Aidyn Mamutov

Nariman Mezhmedinov

Medzhit Ablyamitov

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

Nina (Latifa) Malakhova

Oleksandr Dolzhenkov

Ilver Ametov, Head of the Sudak Regional Mejlis (sentenced to restriction of liberty)

Rustem Abilev

Serhiy Buhaichuk

Yevhen Karakashev

Ihor KIyashko

Maxim Sokurenko 

Also Sokhiba Burkhanova

See: Russia refuses to allow the refugee it killed in occupied Crimea to be buried

The above does not include several Crimean Tatars who have received long sentences in absentia, nor those who were released in the last exchange in September 2019 or because they had served the sentence.

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