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.

Russia carries out mass arrests, including of Crimean Solidarity Coordinator and journalist Lutfiye Zudiyeva

Halya Coynash
The occupation regime dropped any pretence with the arrest of Nariman Dzhelyal and the mass detention on 27 July included two journalists who were simply trying to attend a supposedly open court hearing

Lutfiye Zudiyeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

Lutfiye Zudiyeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

Fourteen Crimean Tatars were detained in Russian-occupied Simferopol on 27 July for trying to attend a purportedly open court hearing into the appeal against horrific sentences passed on Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader, journalist and human rights defender Nariman Dzhelyal and two cousins, Asan and Aziz Akhtemov.  Those detained included the parents or close relatives of the three internationally recognized political prisoners, as well as two journalists, Lutfiye Zudiyeva and Kulamet Ibraimov.  The latter were there to provide coverage of the hearing, which did not stop, and was perhaps the real reason why both were held for more than 12 hours and one is now facing administrative arrest.

Lutfiye Zudiyeva is one of the coordinators of the vital Crimean Solidarity human rights movement and a journalist, reporting on political repression in occupied Crimea both for Crimean Solidarity and for the Graty journalist initiative. She is well-known far beyond Ukraine and it is to be hoped that international journalist and human rights NGOs will heed the call issued on Thursday by Lutfiye’s colleagues at Graty and show solidarity with her and other journalists facing repression under Russian occupation.

In their statement, Graty stress that Zudiyeva had been commissioned by them to provide coverage of the appeal hearing at the Third Court of Appeal in Sochi which was being transmitted via video link at the occupation ‘Crimean high court’.  Such hearings are one of the few opportunities that the political prisoners’ families have of seeing them, and they clearly wished to be present at the hearing which had been announced as ‘open to the public’.  Zudiyeva and Ibraimov, a correspondent for Crimean Solidarity, were there in their professional capacity and should have been admitted. 

Instead, they were all blocked from entering the courtroom.  Crimean Solidarity reports that the detentions began around 15 minutes after several family members wrote formal complaints about such treatment. All were taken to the Zhelezhnodorozhny district police station, where absurd ‘administrative offence protocols were drawn up against at least four of the detained, including Zarema Akhtemova, whose son Aziz was savagely tortured and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment on overtly fabricated charges.  She, Ruslan Dzhelyal, Lutfiye Zudiyeva and Rustem Useinov were charged under Article 20.2.2 § 1 of Russia’s code of administrative offences with the virtually untranslatable “organization of the mass presence which was not a public event and / or movement of citizens at one time, in public places; public calls to the mass presence and / or movement of citizens at one time in public places.”

Graty notes that the charge against Zudiyeva included the words “in a public place near the Crimean high court … for the purpose of later coverage in the media.”  The occupation police were, thus, fully aware that Zudiyeva was there as a journalist and, essentially, included the planned coverage in their charge.

In short, absolutely everything about the events on 27 July were overtly lawless.  Fourteen people were taken to the ‘police station’, including three women.  According to lawyer Edem Semedlyaev, nine were released after (illegally) having fingerprints and DNA samples taken, being photographed; and formally ‘warned’.

The occupation police tried to take photographs and get fingerprints from Lutfiye Zudiyeva and Zarema Akhtemova, with both women refusing. Zudiyeva is adamant that she did not commit any offence and believes that all of these detentions and administrative prosecutions “are aimed at restricting their lawful right to be present at, and provide coverage of, court ‘trials’ of political prisoners and to express their point of view.  They are today demonstrating to us that there is no law as such, that the law is enforcement bodies, the FSB and police”

Kulamet Ibraimov had also been openly and legally carrying out journalist activities, yet he was charged with ‘a repeated offence’, under Article 20.2.2 § 4 of the same code.  He was sentenced very late that evening to five days administrative arrest.

Zarema Akhtemova was fined 12 thousand roubles.  Rustem Useinov, who is 69 and has a heart condition, was ordered to pay 15 thousand roubles, as, later, was Ruslan Dzhelyal, ‘

The ‘hearing’ in Lutfiye’s case ended well after 11 p.m. with the journalist fined 12 thousand roubles.   

After leaving the ‘court’ she gave the following assessment to Crimean Solidarity.  “It’s clear that there are those who really want only one point of view to be broadcast and this is a point of view in favour of the security service, the enforcement bodies and the side of the state prosecution.  However, our task is to objectively describe how such criminal prosecutions are fabricated, what kind of evidence the state prosecution is based on, and how the defence responds to such evidence. This is precisely why I was in court today. Despite the pressure, despite the fines, despite other forms of risk, we will continue to carry out this work. This is because we consider that it is of fundamental important, because this work is in the interests of the public in Crimea, in the interests of people.  Despite today’s events, and such unwarranted, unlawful, and unprovoked detentions, despite the 12 thousand rouble fine, I look to the future with confidence. While I remain at liberty, I will continue to do what I have been engaged in over the past years.”

This is the second time that Lutfiye has been detained and prosecuted, with the first occasion on 30 May 2019 (see: Russia detains & prosecutes Crimean Solidarity rights activist for being tagged on Facebook ).  Russia has already imprisoned around 15 journalists / civic journalists, with most having first been subjected to equally unwarranted administrative arrests or fines.  Most were active, like Lutfiye, in Crimean Solidarity which Russia is trying to crush for the vital role it plays in informing the world about what is happening in occupied Crimea. 

Please help to ensure publicity for Lutfiye Zudiyeva and all those journalists and activists whom Russia is trying to silence.

The appeal hearing against the grotesque sentences passed on Nariman Dzhelyal (17 years); Asan Akhtemov (15) and Aziz Akhtemov (13) will continue, and almost certainly end on 28 July.

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