Russia uses fake ‘court’ in occupied Kherson oblast for lawless ‘trial’ of Crimean Tatar
A Russian-controlled ‘court’ in occupied Kherson oblast has sentenced Eldar Kestan to three and a half years’ imprisonment, with the Crimean Tatar illegally charged by an occupying power under Russian legislation with alleged activities which are entirely legal in Ukraine. It is unclear whether Kestan had any involvement in the peaceful organization used as pretext for his ‘trial’, but entirely immaterial since nothing about Russia’s prosecution bore any relation to rule of law.
reported the new sentence on 8 January 2024, however it was passed on 28 November last year.by ‘judge’ Sergei Indireikin from the occupation Henichesk district court. Eldar Kestan (b. 1980), who is from the village of Partyzany in the Henichesk raion, was illegally seized on 3 August 2023 and is probably held prisoner at the new ‘SIZO’, or remand prison, that the Russian invaders have established at Chonkhar.
Kestan was accused of having taken part in the Noman Çelebicihan Battalion, with the Russian occupiers claiming that this constituted ‘participation in the activities of an armed formation, not envisaged by the legislation of that country and acting for purposes which are against the interests of the Russian Federation’ under Article 208 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code.
As well as being in violation of international law which prohibits Russia, as an occupying state, from applying its legislation on occupied territory, this is also demonstrably untrue and in breach of fundamental principles of law. The Noman Çelebicihan Battalion was never an armed formation, but a civic organization which was perfectly legal in Ukraine. While its aims, namely the liberation of Russian-occupied Crimea, certainly riled Moscow, they were shared by the UN and other international bodies and in no way illegal. The Battalion was founded by Crimean Tatar activist and businessman Lenur Islyamov on 1 January 2016, with the first members people who had taken part in the civic blockade of occupied Crimea. This blockade was initiated by Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, together with Islyamov, on 20 September 2015, and demanded an end to trade, and supplies of electricity to Crimea while it remained under Russian occupation. Battalion members merely promoted the goods and energy blockade and provided backup for Ukrainian border guards in areas near the administrative border with occupied Crimea. Even were there to be proof that specific members took part in cutting electricity cables, this was on Ukrainian territory and under Ukrainian law. Nor, in those cases known about, has any evidence ever been provided. Claims that those detained had trained in the use of firearms were also unsubstantiated.
Russia began abducting, torturing and ‘sentencing’ Crimean Tatars to periods of imprisonment up to ten years on the above charges back in 2018. Although the Battalion had already ceased to exist, Russia’s politically subservient supreme court declared the battalion ‘a terrorist organization’ on 1 June 2022. There were no grounds for the move which was probably linked with the increasing number of Ukrainian civilians whom the Russian invaders were abducting from occupied parts of Kherson oblast. At present, thankfully, the occupation regime has not begun using its flawed legislation in supposed ‘terrorism’ cases, which would carry significantly longer sentences purely because of the supreme court ruling. Instead, the above charge, under Article 208, are applied, with well over 30 Crimean Tatars or other Ukrainian citizens facing sentences that vary greatly in length. Kestan was ‘tried’ by one of 16 occupation ‘courts’ that Russia has installed in occupied parts of Kherson oblast.