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.

Armed raid and surreal charges in Russian attempt to silence renowned Crimean Tatar journalist and Crimean Solidarity coordinator Lutfiye Zutfiyeva

Halya Coynash
Russia dredged up Facebook posts from 2021-22 and grotesque charges to justify its latest attack and armed raid against Lutfiye Zudiyeva who tirelessly speaks out in defence of victims of repression in occupied Crimea

Lutfiye Zudiyeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

Lutfiye Zudiyeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

Lutfiye Zudiyeva, Graty journalist and a world-renowned coordinator of the vital Crimean Solidarity human rights movement is facing two absurd prosecutions after armed Russian enforcement officers burst into her home on 22 February, terrifying her children.  This was a clear attack on a fearless human rights defender and journalist, and it is no accident that the charges are essentially identical to that laid just weeks ago against well-known Crimean Tatar human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov.

The ‘operation’ against Lutviye on 22 February was led by Roman Filatov and Ruslan Shambazov, two officers of Russia’s so-called ‘Centre for countering extremism’ who have become notorious for their active part in the political persecution of Crimean Tatar lawyers, as well as Crimean Solidarity journalists and activists.

Enforcement officers turned up at Zudiyeva’s home at around 6 a.m..  Typically, they jumped over the fence, before loudly banging on the door.  According to Lutfiye’s husband, Seitasan Chykiyev, the men had a warrant from the occupation ‘Kievsky district court’ in Simferopol to carry out “an inspection”. This was a procedural ploy, since ‘investigations’ require less formal grounds, though in fact the officers proceeded to carry out a fully-fledged search of the house, rummaging around everywhere and demanding that Chykiyev pull things out for them to examine. 

At around 8.00, lawyer Emil Kurbedinov arrived, but was not allowed in, unlike another carload of masked officers who came at the same time. As well as illegally preventing Kurbedinov from being present during the search, officers also stopped neighbours and relatives from entering and ostentatiously videoed them standing by the gate.

The officers removed a video register, all telephones, Zudiyeva’s laptop and flash drives.  They also took two books away.  One, entitled ‘I remain here’, is a collection of letters and texts by Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader and political prisoner Nariman Dzhelyal.  In explaining this, Zudiyeva, tellingly, used a word from Soviet times – Samizdat (works banned by the regime that were secretly passed from person to person).  The other work was a collection of lectures mainly given by Russian human rights defenders, but also containing a lecture given by Zudiyeva about political persecution in Crimea.

Zudiyeva was taken away to the Simferopol department of the ‘centre for countering extremism’ where two administrative charges were laid.  These were over three posts on Facebook.  In two of them, the journalist had mentioned or posted material mentioning Radio Svoboda [RFE/R;] without indicating that this has been forcibly registered as a so-called ‘foreign agent’ in Russia (and Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine). In the third text, Zudiyeva did not mention that Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful, transnational Muslim organization, which is legal in Ukraine, has been declared ‘terrorist’ in Russia.   

The charges are under Articles 13.15 § 2 and 13.15 § 2.1 of Russia’s code of administrative offences which claim to punish something termed ‘abuse of freedom of mass information’.   Paragraph 2 covers organizations, etc. banned in Russia, while 2.1 refers to those labelled as ‘foreign agents’.   At least the charges envisage fines, rather than imprisonment, and she was later released.

It is worth noting both the age of these posts and their subject matter.  The earliest dates back to 10 January 2021 and reports on various measures throughout local Crimean Tatar communities in support of three political prisoners – Enver Omerov (then 59), his son Riza Omerov and Aider Dzhapparov.  Zudiyeva’s post was on the eve of horrific sentences (18, 13 and 17 years, respectively) on the basis of conversations about religion and entirely unproven claims that the men ‘organized’ or ‘took part’ in a Hizb ut-Tahrir group.   The three men are all recognized internationally as political prisoners, and Russia’s abuse of its ‘terrorism’ legislation has been widely condemned. Nonetheless, over three years later, Lutfiye Zudiyeva has been charged over her failure to preface mention of Hizb ut-Tahrir by noting that it is outlawed as ‘terrorist’ in Russia. 

The second, posted on 16 February 2022, reported the internationally condemned sentence against Vladyslav Yesypenko, a Ukrainian freelance journalist who was seized, tortured and then ‘sentenced’ to 6 years on surreal charges while carrying out work in occupied Crimea for RFE/RL’s Crimean Realities.   The charge here is, presumably, because Zudiyeva gave a link to an article, written by Anton Naumliuk, about the sentence on Graty, since in her preface to this, she does not mention for whom Yesypenko was working at all.

The most recent of the three posts still dates back to 6 August 2022 and is about Russia’s offensive against three Crimean Tatar lawyers, all involved in defending Crimean Tatar political prisoners.  As reported, the three: Lilia Hemedzhy; her husband Rustem Kyamilev and Nazim Sheikhmambetov were all stripped of their licence to practise without any legitimate grounds. Zudiyeva mentioned other persecution of lawyers both in Russia and in Belarus, with the post mentioning the Belarusian Service of Radio Svoboda (without calling the latter a ‘foreign agent’).

Lutfiye Zudiyeva has been on Russia’s persecution hitlist since at least 2016, when she and other Crimean Tatars initiated the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement.  She and fellow human rights defender, Mumime Saliyeva, were detained on 30 May 2019.  She was prosecuted and fined for three Facebook posts which she had had nothing to do with, but which somebody had tagged her on when posting five years earlier.

She was one of two journalists detained on 27 July 2023 while attempting to attend and report on a supposedly open ‘court’ appeal hearing against the appalling politically motivated sentences passed on Nariman Dzhelyal, Asan Akhtemov and his cousin, Aziz Akhtemov.  Although she had been illegally detained while present in her journalist capacity, she was fined.

Lutfiye Zudiyeva has been working for several years for the important Graty journalist initiative and has gained international renown for her tireless work in defence of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners in occupied Crimea.   It was for this reason that the Russian occupation regime dug out posts from 2021 and 2022 and has laid such outrageous charges against a person they clearly want to silence. 

PLEASE help to publicize this appalling attack on Lutfiye Zudiyeva, as well as that against human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov.

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