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 drops all pretence in latest conveyor belt trial of six Crimean Tatar political prisoners

Halya Coynash
The FSB are clearly certain of their full impunity and make no effort to even ensure that the 'testimony' of its 'secret witnesses' match the photos allegedly enabling identification of the defendants
From left Leman Zekeryaev, Ekrem Krosh, Aider Asanov, Khalil Mambetov, Refat Seidametov and Osman Abdurazakov Photo Crimean Solidarity
From left Leman Zekeryaev, Ekrem Krosh, Aider Asanov, Khalil Mambetov, Refat Seidametov and Osman Abdurazakov Photo Crimean Solidarity

Russian ‘investigators’ have reached new depths in their attempt to secure sentences of up to 20 years against six Crimean Tatars who have committed no crime.  As the defence pointed out after the latest hearing on 28 May, no attempt has been made to explain which part of a long conversation which the FSB illicitly taped is supposed to prove the men’s ‘guilt’.  Nor why the description given by one of the ‘secret witnesses’ did not match the photos used for the alleged identification parade.  These are just two of a number of glaring irregularities which the FSB and prosecutors clearly understand will be ignored by the obliging ‘judges’ from Russia’s notorious Southern District Military Court. 

Russia has been using identical charges to stage fake ‘terrorism’ trials against Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian Muslims since 2015.  The men are invariably accused of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful transnational Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine.  A secretive and unexplained ruling in 2003 from Russia’s Supreme Court is used to justify charges under Russian ‘terrorism’ legislation and, therefore, horrifically long sentence.  The ‘evidence’ presented in court also scarcely varies from one ‘trial’ to the next and there is, in fact, considerable evidence that the same ‘secret witnesses’, who may never have met the defendants, have been used in multiple ‘trials’.  The same is true of the FSB-loyal academics who provide ‘expert assessments’ which they are unqualified to give. There are, however, two key differences.  The sentences have become ever longer, and Russia’s FSB has, over the years, increasingly targeted civic journalists and activists, as well as independent religious figures. 

Such cases normally involve one or more men being accused under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code of being “the organizer(s)’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group, with the others facing the less serious charge of being ‘involved’ in such a supposed group (under Article 205.5 § 2). In occupied Crimea, Russia also adds an extra, preposterous, charge of ‘planning to violently seize power’, under Article 278. 

This case differs slightly as all six Crimean Tatars from Dzhankoi: Osman Abdurazakov (b. 1984); Aider Asanov (b. 1993); Ekrem Krosh (b. 1985); Khalil Mambetov (b 26.05.1955); Refat Seidametov (b. 1969); and Leman Zekeryaev (b. 1973); are charged with ‘involvement’ (Article 205.5 § 2), as well as the claim ‘plans to violently seize power, under Article 278.  The lack of an alleged ‘organizer’ may indicate that this ‘trial’ is linked with the first Dzhankoi case.  That seems likely also as two of the defendants seized during the armed searches on 24 January 2023 are the brothers of men who were taken prisoner during the first Dzhankoi offensive (Ekrem Krosh is the brother of civic activist Enver Krosh, who is accused of being the ‘organizer’ in the first ‘trial’, while Osman Abdurazakov is Edem Bekirov’s brother).

The first Dzhankoi arrests on 11 August 2022 were typical in that they targeted a Crimean Solidarity civic journalist Vilen Temerianov (b. 1985) and civic activist Enver Krosh (b. 1991).  They are also on ‘trial’ at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov, together with Seitiaha Abbozov (b. 1957); Rinat Aliev (b. 1964); and Edem Bekirov (b. 1976).  There are, however, grounds for believing that this case involved another political motive.  The arrests came a day after huge, and politically embarrassing, explosions at the Saki air base in Russian-occupied Crimea on 10 August 2022.  Russia has responded to all humiliating military losses through savage retaliation, almost always against Ukrainian civilians.  It had problems here, however, as it could hardly carry out open acts of retaliation when it was strenuously denying that Ukraine’s attack had caused any losses.  It was telling that the FSB announcements about the violent arrests of the men claimed that it had “broken up a terrorist cell controlled from Ukraine”.

These prosecutions and ‘trials’ are a conveyor belt in another, tragic way, with the outcome virtually guaranteed from the moment, in the early morning, that armed Russian enforcement officers, burst into the family homes, carry out ‘searches’ and take the men away.  Neither age (Khalil Mambetov is already 69), nor state of health is taken into consideration.  In the two or three cases where men have been placed under house arrest, rather than detention, this Is only until the Southern District Military Court has passed sentence. Russia has already caused the deaths of three Ukrainian political prisoners, and is risking the lives of a number of others.

The six men’s ‘case’ was passed to the court in Rostov in August 2023, and is being heard by a panel of judges, under presiding judge Viacheslav Alekseevich Korsakov.  The latter has already taken part in similar judicial travesties, and has already ignored a complaint by Ekrem Krosh of torture in the remand prison, and allowed ‘secret witnesses’, despite the lack of any grounds for not openly testifying.  Russia’s use of such anonymous ‘witnesses’ whose ‘testimony’ cannot be verified has been condemned by the UN Secretary General and found to violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial by the European Court of Human Rights.


The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that the ‘trial’ now underway is being followed. Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer. 

Sample letter


Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 

Osman Abdurazakov

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Abdurazakov, Osman Narimanovich, b. 1984

Aider Asanov

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Asanov, Aider Rizayevich, b. 1993

Ekrem Krosh

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Krosh, Ekrem Umerovich, b. 1985

Khalil Mambetov

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Mambetov, Khalil Azizovich, b. 1955

Refat Seidametov

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Seidametov, Refat Seitkhalilovich, b. 1969

Leman Zekeryaev

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Zekeryaev, Leman Abdumadzhitovich, b. 1973

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