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Faked tape used to sentence Crimean Tatar to 7 years for refusing to collaborate with Russia's FSB

04.02.2022
Halya Coynash

Arsen Dzhepparov (in front), Refat Alimov (on the left) Photo Crimean Solidarity

A Russian cassation court is, very belatedly, to examine evidence proving that the FSB tape used to imprison Arsen Dzhepparov is an illegal montage that should have never been allowed.  The evidence confirms the account given from the outset by Dzhepparov, a recognized political prisoner and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, of the malignant role in his persecution played by Aleksandr Kompaneitsev, a Ukrainian turncoat, now working for the FSB. 

Dzhepparov’s lawyer, Aider Azamatov reported on 1 February that a Russian cassation court is finally due, on 15 February 2022, to consider his appeal over the seven-year sentence against Arsen Dzhepparov.  This is in connection with an independent expert assessment indicating that the key audiotape used to convict Dzhepparov is an illegal montage of separate utterances.  

Two Russian courts have already turned a blind eye to this evidence and there is, unfortunately, no guarantee that the panel of judges on military cases of the Russian Federation Supreme Court will want to overturn an evidently wrongful conviction.  There are, nonetheless, compelling reasons for doing so, and it is important that these are made public.

Azamatov explains that he suspected from the outset that there was something wrong with the audiotape of a ‘conversation’ with FSB officer Kompaneitsev lasting five minutes and 27 seconds.  It was this conversation that was used as the grounds for arresting Dzepparov on 18 April 2016 and then for his 7-year sentence.  Azamatov, therefore, applied to the first court (now called the Southern District Military Court in Rostov) to have an independent phonoscopic examination carried out.  The application was rejected, with the presiding judge claiming it to be untimely.

Azamatov, fortunately, insisted on seeking an independent assessment, however the results were received too late to be added to the initial case and Dzhepparov was found ‘guilty’ and sentenced to seven years’ in a harsh regime prison colony.

There was no excuse whatsoever for Russia’s Military Court of Appeal to have refused to consider the crucial proof of tampering which provided grounds for excluding all other ‘evidence’ used in the case.  Azamatov explains that, faced with the expert assessment, the panel of judges announced a break, after which they simply refused to examine it.  That refusal, Azamatov says, was the only ‘solution’ the judges could find since the proof, once examined, would be incontrovertible.

The test now is whether judges from the Russian Supreme Court remember their oath and finally provide a proper examination of this evidence.

Six Yalta prisoners of conscience

The brutal FSB ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016 was not, by any means, Russia’s first political trial in occupied Crimea, but it was, at that stage, the most brutal and cynical, with armed and, often masked, men bursting into 11 homes, carrying out ‘searches’ and terrorising small children.  On several occasions, they broke down doors or windows, with this evidently for intimidation as nobody had shown any resistance. Four men were arrested that day: Crimean Tatar human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku; Muslim Aliev; Inver Bekirov and Vadim Siruk, an ethnic Ukrainian convert to Islam.  We know from the testimony of a friend of Kuku’s that at least two of the other men taken away for ‘questioning’ were tortured and threatened with the same charges if they did not give false testimony.  

Then on 18 April, the FSB came for two much younger men: Arsen Dzhepparov, who was 25, and a young father, and 24-year-old Refat Alimov.  

All six men were accused only of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful transnational Muslim party, which is legal in Ukraine and most countries. The ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003 to declare it ‘terrorist’ was kept secret until it was too late to lodge an appeal and it has never been explained. 

The obvious targeting of a human rights defender and other aspects of the case finally alerted international attention to Russia’s use of conveyor belt Hizb ut-Tahrir charges as a weapon of religious and political persecution.  It may well have been because of such attention that the original ‘trial’ was aborted, and ‘judges’ from the Southern District Military Court acted as prosecutor, sending the case back to apply worse charges against Inver Bekirov.  Bekirov and Aliev were charged with ‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’ under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code; the others with ‘involvement’ in this entirely unproven group (Article 205.5 § 2).  By that stage, all of the men had also been charged, by the country that had invaded and annexed their homeland, with ‘planning to violently overthrow the state’ (Article 278).

It became clear over the course of the original ‘trial’ just how cynical the charges were and what a sinister role had been played by the traitor turned ‘FSB officer’, Aleksandr Kompaneitsev.  There are very strong grounds for believing that he was at least serious involved in a likely attempted abduction of Kuku which only turned into an ‘FSB search’ (and beating) after Kuku managed to alert passers-by to the attack on him.   Bekirov has reported that Kompaneitsev threatened to arrest his nephew, Refat Alimov, if he did not provide false testimony against himself, Aliev; Kuku and Siruk.  He was unable to do so, and Alimov was duly arrested.

Kompaneitsev was also behind the initial FSB demand that Dzhepparov provide false testimony against the first four men arrested (almost certainly as a so-called ‘secret witness’).  Dzhepparov refused and was immediately fired from his job. A week later, the FSB caused a minor road incident involving Dzhepparov’s car, stopped him and, when he still refused to collaborate with them, got him fined for supposed drunken driving.  On that occasion, the traffic police officer told the 25-year-old Crimean Tatar that, whatever the FSB wanted, he should agree to, since, otherwise, they’d destroy him.  A week later, on 18 April 2016, armed FSB and other officers burst into his home and arrested him on the same ‘terrorism’ charges as the political prisoners he had refused to tell lies about.

Dzhepparov and his wife, Zarina, had said nothing, as Dzhepparov’s mother was in ill health and they hadn’t wanted to worry her, but they had clearly understood what was coming. How would he ever be able to tell their small daughter Evelina about conscience and honour, he asked, if he had helped persecute innocent men who also had wives and children?  

Despite the trial having broken all records for the number of infringements and falsifications, on 12 November 2019, ‘judges’ Roman Viktorovich Saprunov; Dmitry Viktorovich Merkulov and Roman Vladimirovich Podolsky passed the guilty sentences demanded of them.  Although not one of the men was accused of any actual crime, all sentences were for terms of imprisonment in harsh regime (maximum security) prison colonies where the conditions are particularly appalling. Muslim Aliev (b. 1971) was sentenced to 19 years; Inver Bekirov (b. 1963) to 18 years); Emir-Usein Kuku (b. 1976) – 12 years; Vadim Siruk (b. 1989) – 12 years; Refat Alimov (b. 1991) – 8 years; Arsen Dzhepparov (b. 28.01.1991) – 7 years.

These sentences were upheld, without change, on 25 June 2020 by ‘judges’  Oleg Aleksandrovich Yegorov; Aleksander Aleksandrovich Mordovin and Anatoly Valentinovich Solin

All of these individuals, together with Kompaneitsev and other FSB officers and the prosecutors, were fully aware that the men had never committed any crime at all. 

All six men are recognized by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners and are Amnesty International prisoners of conscience.  Their release has been demanded by all European and international structures and democratic states.

Please write to Arsen Dzhepparov and, if possible, to Muslim Aliev; Inver Bekirov; Refat Alimov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk!

The letters tell them and Moscow that they are not forgotten. 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. 

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 (these can be in English or Russian, as below)

Muslim Aliev

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2 

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

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

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]

Inver Bekirov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2  

Бекирову, Инверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

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

Bekirov, Inver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Refat Alimov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

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

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

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

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Emir-Usein Kuku

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, ФКУ ИК-16

Куку, Эмиру-Усеину Кемаловичу, 1976 г.р.   

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

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]

Vadim Siruk

453256, Россия, Республика Башкортостан, г. Салават, станция Южный, ФКУ ИК-2  

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

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

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]

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