Mass detentions in occupied Crimea as Russia openly terrorizes Crimean Tatars
33 Crimean Tatars, including a 17-year-old lad and at least two people with serious health issues were detained by enforcement officers in occupied Crimea on 25 January because they had tried to attend a politically motivated ‘court’ hearing. There were no grounds for detaining anybody, yet all (except perhaps the 17-year-old) remain in custody, with the heavy-handed measures clearly aimed at terrorizing Crimean Tatars who refuse to look away when the Russian FSB arrests their compatriots on fabricated charges.
All of the men now in custody had simply arrived at the occupation Kievsky district court in Simferopol where the detention hearing was due to begin against six Crimean Tatars from the Dzhankoi region: 67-year-old Khalil Mambetov; Osman Abdurazakov; Aider Asanov; Ekrem Krosh; Refat Seidametov and Leman Zekeryaev. The six men had been taken prisoner on 24 January after armed ‘searches’, at which the men’s lawyers were not allowed to be present. These found nothing illegal, expect the ‘prohibited religious literature’ which the FSB officers had brought with them and pretended to ‘find’. 25 January 2023 marks the eighth anniversary since the Russian FSB first launched its conveyor belt prosecutions of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian Muslims on absurd ‘terrorism’ charges. All those previously arrested, including prominent civic journalists and activists, are internationally recognized as political prisoners, and there is every reason to consider the six men arrested on 24 January as the latest victims of Russian persecution.
A large number of the men arrested, including 17-year-old Amar Abdulgaziev, had every reason to understand why the charges against the six new victims were grotesque. Amar’s father, Tofik Abdulgaziev, is one of the 25 civic journalists and activists, most from the Crimean Solidarity human rights initiative, who were arrested in March 2019 or soon afterwards. Amar was just 14 years old during the arrest of his father yet one of the officers turned to him and said “Your turn will also come. We’ll return for you”.
The words were doubtless intended to intimidate the lad. They failed. In an interview to Crimean Solidarity Coordinator Lutfiye Zudiyeva, Amar explained that he had become interested in the work of civic journalists after his father’s arrest, and he began attending political ‘court’ hearings and filming the treatment of other Crimean Tatars. “I film and demonstrate the injustice being done to them. I have firmly decided to circulate and provide coverage of news so that people know about the repression in Crimea.”
By April 2022, Amar had been fined on absurd administrative charges three times, with his mother also issued a formal warning on one occasion as he was underage.
Amar was seized by Russian enforcement officers outside the ‘court’ in the morning of 25 January 2023, together with another Crimean Solidarity civic journalist, Kulamet Ibraimov. The men used force against Amar, and dragged him away with his hands behind his back. There were no grounds even for his detention, let alone the physical violence against the lad. He was seemingly released much later that evening, but is facing two administrative charges under Articles 19.3 (‘disobeying an enforcement officer’) of Russia’s code of ‘administrative offences’, and 20.2.2 “organization of the simultaneous presence or movement in public places causing a disturbance to public order”. There was no disturbance, nor any disobedience, but this means nothing in Russian-occupied Crimea, and convictions are near guaranteed.
It seems clear that the repressive measures were planned in advance with police vans, Rosgvardia and other enforcement officers at the ‘court’ at 9 a.m.. Ismet Memetov explained while in the police van that he and his companions had entered the ‘court’ building and asked if they could attend the hearing. They were told that it was a closed hearing (which it should not have been) and they left the building, and stood outside. It was there that officers came up and demanded that they get into the police van. It was claimed that this was to check their identity and that they would then be released, however they and over 30 others were detained and, as of late on Wednesday evening, remain in custody.
In a move of particular brutality, it appears that the occupation authorities are planning to also charge Kazim Ablyalimov under Article 20.2.2 with ‘organizing the simultaneous presence or movement of citizens in public places, causing disturbance of public order.” The only disturbance was caused by the enforcement officers detaining people, yet Kazim Ablyalimov was forced into a police van. It was there that he learned that his elderly father had died. Instead of being able to grieve and assume his duties as his father’s son in organizing the funeral, he is in detention and, almost certainly facing an unwarranted term of ‘administrative arrest’.
There is a list of all of those detained below, with this clearly including several members of the families of men arrested on 24 January. All six Crimean Tatars taken prisoner then were remanded in custody for the standard two months, with this invariably extended effectively until the ‘trial’ with its predetermined outcome. Russian-controlled ‘courts’ almost invariably do as they are told, even in the case of Crimean Tatar pensioner Khalil Mambetov who is 67 and who is needed at home to provide daily care for his wife who is suffering from cancer.
Detained for peaceful solidarity with victims of persecution
Amar Abdulgaziev (17 years old, and violently detained)
Ruslan Belyalov (who has serious health issues)
Kulamet Ibraimov, Crimean Solidarity correspondent, who was there in a professional capacity