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25-year-old Crimean Tatar mother ‘on trial’ for failing to report a 2016 social media conversation to Russia’s FSB

Halya Coynash
Putin’s Russia has long worked to reinstate the Soviet system of denunciations, with the FSB using an ‘elastic’ norm about failure to denounce as a weapon of repression in occupied Crimea

Emine Zekeryaeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

Emine Zekeryaeva Photo Crimean Solidarity

The ‘trial’ has begun in Russian-occupied Crimea of Emine Zekeryaeva, a 25-year-old mother of two, charged under ‘terrorism’ legislation because she did not report a conversation on social media to Russia’s FSB.  Her lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, believes that this absurd charge is in fact reprisal for the young woman’s refusal to collaborate with the FSB and points to the dangerously ‘elastic’ nature of the article in question of Russia’s criminal code.  Emine is accused of ‘failure to report a crime’ back in 2016 although there was no obvious crime to report and she herself would have been just 18 when the FSB claim that she should have denounced a social media contact.

Zekeryaeva is charged under Article 205.6 of Russia’s criminal code, namely ‘failure to report a crime’, with this potentially carrying a one-year prison sentence.  The first hearing took place on 3 April at the occupation ‘Kirovsky district court’, however it was adjourned after the prosecutor read out the indictment since the ‘witnesses for the prosecution’ had not turned up. The next hearing is scheduled for 10 April.

Although the prosecution is claiming that there was a ‘crime’ and that Emine, aged just 18, clearly understood this, the charges pertain solely to a conversation on VKontakte with a former schoolmate.  The latter had gone to Syria and tried, in 2016, to persuade Enine to also go. Emine had not only refused but had also tried to persuade the woman to return from Syria.  Russia is now claiming that the woman in Syria was a member of “an armed formation whose aims are against the interests of the Russian Federation”.  As Kurbedinov stresses, the FSB are trying to forcibly install the practice of denunciations, getting people like Zekeryaeva to do their work for them.  In fact, the point is not only that, back in 2016, there was no possibility that Emine could have known that the conversation on VKontakte could form part of a criminal prosecution.   ‘Failure to report a crime’ implies that a crime has been proven, yet it is by no means clear that the FSB have even initiated a criminal investigation against the young woman who went to Syria.

Emine Zekeryaeva commented back in November 2023 that these charges were nonsensical and that she saw them as further persecution and intimidation of Crimean Tatars and Crimean Muslims.  They were, she said, simply demonstrating that they could concoct any kind of criminal charges after seven years and without any proof. 

Although Zekeryaeva and her lawyer were only informed of the proceedings in November 2023, with the formal charge laid in December, it transpired that the proceedings had been initiated in August that year.   At that time, she had been told that she was ‘a witness’ in an FSB case.

As reported, very early on 7 August this year, the FSB began violently banging on the door of the home that Emine Zekeryaeva shares with her husband Asan Zekeryaev and their two children.  Asan was at home alone, as Emine was at her parents, with the children.  He had managed to text a relative explaining that the FSB were trying to burst in before all contact with him was lost.  By the time the relatives got to the house, Asan had been taken away. Since Asan is the nephew of political prisoner Leman Zekeryaev and had been one of 23 Crimean Tatars  detained on 25 January 2023 merely for trying to show solidarity with the imprisoned men, it was initially assumed that Asan had been the target.  Later, however, the FSB turned up at Emine’s parents’ home and forced her and her two pre-school-aged children into their car and drove her back to their home where they carried out a search and took Emine away for interrogation. All of her requests for a lawyer to be present were ignored.   On 5 September, she received two phone calls from a person who claimed to be from the FSB, and to have been present during the search, but refused to identify himself.  He demanded that she come to the Investigative Committee in Dzhankoi, and began threatening to simply come and take her away after she asked, as is her right, for a formal summons and said that she wished to consult with a lawyer.

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