war crimes in Ukraine

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Russian FSB seize Crimean Tatar family’s last son in new wave of terror against Crimean Solidarity activists

Halya Coynash
Russia has taken all three sons from Crimean Tatar historian Shukri Seitumerov and his wife Lilia, with the persecution in each case chillingly similar to the charges used during Stalin's Terror to arrest and execute their great-grandfather

Lilia Seitumerova after the Russian FSB came back, this time for her youngest son, Abdulmedzhit Photo Mumine Saliyeva, from left clockwise Abdulmedzhit Seitumerov, Seidamet Mustafayev, Eldar Yakubov. Ruslan Asanov, Remzi Nimetulayev, Ametkhan Umerov, , Photo montage Crimean Solidarity

Lilia Seitumerova after the Russian FSB came back, this time for her youngest son, Abdulmedzhit Photo Mumine Saliyeva, from left clockwise Abdulmedzhit Seitumerov, Seidamet Mustafayev, Eldar Yakubov. Ruslan Asanov, Remzi Nimetulayev, Ametkhan Umerov, , Photo montage Crimean Solidarity

The grandfather of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shukri Seitumerov was executed during Stalin’s Terror for supposed ‘counter-revolutionary terrorist propaganda’.  80 years later, Russia’s FSB came for Shukri’s two elder sons, Seitumer and Osman Seitumerov, as well as his wife Lilia’s brother, with the ‘terrorism’ charges they faced no less politically motivated.  Such arrests and subsequent sentences of up to 20 years are part of Russia’s ongoing attack on the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement and are also simply ‘good for FSB statistics’.  For the next round of victims, armed Russian FSB burst into the Seitumerov home yet again at 4 a.m. on 24 August, this time taking Shukri and Lilia’s last son away from them.  Abdulmedzhit Seitumerov is just 23 and became a father less than 2 months ago.

Armed and masked enforcement officers carried out multiple ‘searches’ in the early hours of 25 August, with six Crimean Tatars taken away.  All are now facing the huge sentences that have become a standard part of Russa’s most cynical conveyor belt of repression in occupied Crimea.  Ruslan Asanov (b. 1975); Remzi Nimetulayev (b. 1985); Seidamet Mustafayev (b. 1995); Abdulmedzhit Seitumerov (b. 1999); Ametkhan Umerov (b. 1986) and Eldar Yakubov (b. 1980) are Crimean Solidarity activists who had previously faced administrative prosecution for peaceful acts of solidarity with other political prisoners. 

This is one of the many identical elements in these cases which have been internationally condemned as politically motivated persecution.  The ‘armed searches’ are invariably carried out without the men’s lawyers allowed to be present, and with the FSB most often bringing the so-called ‘prohibited religious literature’ that they then claim to have found.  The men are generally forced to the ground, often in front of their terrified children, and then taken away as though criminals, although none is accused of any recognizable crime. 

The charges are equally predictable with the Crimean Tatars accused solely of unproven ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir.  This peaceful transnational Muslim organization was declared ‘terrorist’ by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003, with the ruling passed in secret and probably politically motivated (making it easier for Russia to send refugees back to Uzbekistan where they faced religious persecution for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir).  No explanation has ever been provided for why an organization not known to have committed terrorist attacks anywhere in the world should be so labelled, and the organization has always been legal in Ukraine.  

Despite the lack of any grounds and in clear violation of international law which prohibits Russia from applying its legislation on occupied Ukrainian territory, Russia has been imprisoning Crimean Tatars (and a few other Ukrainian Muslims) on these charges since 2015.  The sentences have been getting longer and longer (up to 20 years), as Russia openly targets Crimean Solidarity journalists and activists speaking out about repression in occupied Crimea.

In all such ‘cases’, at least one man is invariably charged with the more serious Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code (‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’), while the others face the lesser charge of ‘involvement’ in the purported ‘group’, under Article 205.5 § 2.  There is plenty of evidence from previous ‘trials’ that the more serious charge (carrying sentences of 17-20 years at present) are often laid in reprisal, for example, against Raim Aivazov for refusing to remain silent about the torture he faced from the FSB.  The men will likely also be charged with ‘planning a violent uprising’ (Article 278).  Once again, this is purely based on the 2003 Supreme Court ruling, with none of the political prisoners having ever been accused of actions or direct plans to commit any action aimed at ‘overthrowing the Russian constitutional order.’

The ‘evidence’ is as flawed as the charges.  It hinges on FSB-loyal ‘experts’ providing ‘assessments’ of innocuous conversations about religion, Russian persecution, etc. to fit the prosecution and ‘anonymous witnesses’, whose testimony cannot be verified, and who may have never met the men. 

Six families have been ripped apart, with children left traumatized and elderly parents facing never seeing their sons again.  

Russia uses such arrests and ‘trials’ as a weapon against the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement and as an instrument of terror and propaganda against Crimean Tatars who have from the outset demonstrated so clearly their identification with Ukraine.  The FSB are known to get promotion or bonuses for providing such ‘cases’ and can boast of ‘good statistics on fighting terrorism’.

Abdulmedzhit Seitumerov (b. 1999) was just 20 when the FSB came for his brothers, Seitumer Seitumerov (b. 1988) and Osman Seitumerov (b. 1992) and their uncle, Rustem Seitmemetov (b. 1973).  For his parents, this was already a terrible blow, especially since Russia illegally imprisons the men thousands of kilometres from their homes.  Now all three sons have been taken from them, and, if Russia is not stopped, Abdulmedzhit’s son Khamza, born on 5 July this year, will spend most of his childhood without his father.   Abdulmedzhit had been active in Crimean Solidarity, speaking out in defence of his brothers and other political prisoners.

Ametkhan Umerov (b. 1986)

The 37-year-old Crimean Solidarity activist was detained and fined in July 2019 for a picket in Moscow in support of four Crimean Tatar political prisoners.  He was one of 21 Crimean Tatars detained inh November 2021 for trying to stand outside an occupation ‘court’ during the appeal hearing in the case of three other political prisoners. Then in February 2022, he was jailed for several days for trying to attend a purportedly open (but political) ‘court’) hearing.

Ametkhan has three daughters and a son, all of them very young: Zamira (b. 2015); Khatidzha (b. 2017); Ali (b. 2019) and Zainab (b. 2021).

Seidamet Mustafayev (b. 1995)

Seidamet is just 28, but has faced several administrative prosecutions since 2017, when he was jailed for 10 days for taking part in what the occupation regime called an unsanctioned meeting (in fact, people standing outside in solidarity) during an armed search of the home of (now) political prisoner Seiran Saliyev.  In 2021, he was also detained and fined for having tried to stand outside an occupation ‘court’ during a political hearing.  In February 2022, he was also jailed for several days for trying to attend a purportedly open (but political) ‘court’) hearing.

Seidamet has four small children: Suleiman (b. 2014); Salsabil (b. 2016); Latifa (b. 2020) and Osman (b. 2023).

Remzi Nimetulayev (b. 1985)

Remzi was detained for the first time on 23 November 2021 when he came to the police holding unit in occupied Simferopol to greet lawyer Edem Semedlyaev, who had been jailed for 12 days for trying to carry out his professional duties.  Remzi was  jailed for 10 days.

He has five daughters: Aishe (b. 2009); Anife (b. 2019); Adile (b. 2013); Yasmina (b. 2016) and Alime (b. 2020).

Eldar Yakubov (b. 1980)

The 43-year-old was detained and fined on 25 October 2021 outside the Crimean occupation military ‘court’ during an appeal hearing against the sentences passed on three political prisoners.  

He has four daughters and two sons: Safiye (b. 2004); Khalid (b. 2008); Meryem (b. 2013); Khamza (b. 2017); Selime (b. 2018) and Asiya (b. 2021).

Ruslan Asanov (b. 1975) is also a Crimean Solidarity activist.

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