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 resorts to fake medical assessments to conceal death sentence against Crimean Tatar civic journalist Amet Suleimanov

Halya Coynash
The Russians implicated in imprisoning Amet Suleimanov for reporting Russian repression in Crimea are willing to cause his death rather than ‘risk’ releasing a political prisoner

Amet Suleimanov Photo Crimean Solidarity

Amet Suleimanov Photo Crimean Solidarity

A court in Russia has refused to save the life of Amet Suleimanov even though Russia’s own legislation stipulates that the recognized Crimean Tatar political prisoner is too ill to be held in detention. It appears that all the players in Russia’s flawed ‘justice system, including medical personnel employed by Russia’s penal service, are willing to deliver an effective death sentence rather than risk annoying those ‘above’ by releasing a political prisoner.  There is no possibility that Amet Suleimanov can survive the 12-year sentence passed by a Russian court without any crime.  The civic journalist is one of an ever-mounting number of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners targeted for reporting on Russian repression, in particular for the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement.

During the ‘hearing’ at the Frunze district court in Vladimir on 26 June, the defence produced an expert assessment which confirmed that Suleimanov suffers from two illnesses which preclude imprisonment according to Russia’s own list.  Lawyer Lilia Hemedzhy also pointed to the contradictory nature of the ‘medical examination’ illegally carried out by the Penal Service after Suleimanov was moved to the prison in Vladimir.  The ‘conclusion’ reached by the doctors who signed this ‘expert assessment’, aimed at allowing Suleimanov to be held in prison, was in conflict with the data and conclusions reached by the specialists, including a cardiologist.  Hemedzhy stresses that the international classification codes applied by these specialists fully coincide with those illnesses which even Russia acknowledges are incompatible with imprisonment.  She explains that the defence sent the second medical assessment with the diagnoses and test results to an independent expert organization.  This corroborated the defence’s argument regarding the illnesses that preclude imprisonment.  Suleimanov (b. 1984) suffers from chronic rheumatic heart disease, aortic insufficiency, coronary artery disease and third level mitral valve prolapse.  Even before his arrest, he was waiting for an urgently needed heart valve transplant.  

For the court, this was not a question of deciding which of two medical assessments it should consider, since the findings of the independent assessment, fully coincided with the data and conclusions of the narrow specialists ‘consulted’, but then ignored, for the Penal Service assessment.  It seems likely that the outcome of the hearing, namely that Suleimanov would remain imprisoned, was known before the proceedings began.  There is no other way to explain the refusal to allow the defence to question the doctors who issued the first medical assessment during the original trial, and the forensic expert who carried out the independent assessment.   Nor the fact that it ignored the detailed account which Suleimanov gave, and which is, after all, confirmed by his medical records, of his medical condition and of the treatment he was receiving before his arrest.

The hearing on 26 June was the appeal against a ruling from the same court in March which also claimed there to be no grounds for releasing Suleimanov from custody.

Russia has already caused the death of at least two Ukrainian political prisoners – Dzhemil Gafarov and Kostiantyn Shyrinh, as well, probably as that of Viktor Demchenko.   The case of Amet Suleimanov is, however, especially shocking given that Russia’s FSB clearly understood, at the time of his arrest on 11 March 2020, that Suleimanov would not survive detention.  He was the first of Russia’s Crimean political prisoners to be ‘only’ placed under house arrest, with this continuing until after the appeal hearing against his 12-year sentence.  Unfortunately, it seems likely that any such moves were aimed solely at avoiding the political prisoner’s death before his predetermined conviction.  All players since then, including ‘judges’, prosecutors and penal service employees have all focused solely on covering their tracks, as seen with the ‘medical commission’ which, in March 2024, ignored the findings of specialists set out in the same report, and claimed that Suleimanov had no illnesses that precluded detention.  More details about the commission and the member who told Suleimanov that he would be released 20 minutes before death here.

As well as multiple calls from the UN General Assembly, OSCE, the EU and other bodies to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, Russia has ignored an important interim decision issued by the United Nations Committee against Torture [CAT] on 22 February 2023.  CAT called on Russia to abstain from implementing the 12-year prison sentence passed against the civic journalist and recognized political prison that would likely result in his death.  It asked Russia to ensure that Suleimanov received a comprehensive medical examination in a specialized medical facility and that he underwent heart surgery and/or treatment in accordance with the results of the examination.

The rejection of Suleimanov’s appeal on 26 June came a day after the European Court of Human Rights issued a devastating judgement in the case of Ukraine v. Russia re Crimea.  This found a huge number of violations, many of which are evident in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Solidarity civic journalist Amet Suleimanov. 

Russia is illegally holding Rustem Seitmemetov (b. 1973); his nephews – Seitumer Seitumerov (1988) and Osman Seitumerov (b. 1992), as well as Amet Suleimanov (b. 1984) prisoner in the Russian Federation, thousands of kilometres away from their families and from Crimea.  As noted in the ECHR judgement, Russia is flouting international law by applying its legislation on occupied territory and forcibly moving people from occupied Crimea to Russia.  The violation is especially shocking as Russia is persecuting Ukrainian citizens for unproven involvement in an organization which is legal in Ukraine.  It has never explained the flawed and suspiciously secretive Supreme Court ruling from 2003 which declared the transnational Muslim organization Hizb ut-Tahrir to be ‘terrorist’.  It is using spurious charges of ‘involvement’ as a weapon which it increasingly uses against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists, especially those involved in Crimean Solidarity. Although the men are targeted for human rights activities, they face sentences far long than those used against Soviet dissidents, because of the cynical use of ‘terrorism legislation’.

No proof is even needed of actual involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir since the FSB invariably plant ‘prohibited literature’ which they then claim to have found during armed searches which lawyers are pretended from attending.  They then send transcripts of illicitly taped and quite innocuous conversations about religion, Russian persecution, events in Crimea to the same unqualified, but FSB-loyal, ‘experts’ who invariably claim that the conversations ‘prove’ that the men are involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir.  In this case, the so-called expert, Larisa Teslenko, added words that were not actually said in conversations taped three years before the men were arrested.  Russia has also been condemned for its widespread use of so-called ‘anonymous witnesses’, who invariably repeat the indictment almost verbatim while proving suspiciously unable to provide any other details about the defendants.  In this case there were two ‘secret witnesses’ whose identity was known, as was the number of other ‘trials’ where the same two men were used to secure sentences of up to 19 years. Konstantin Tumarevich is a fugitive from justice in his native Latvia, and, without the appropriate papers, had every reason to cooperate with the FSB to avoid being deported.  The same applies to Nazrulayev Salakhutdin (or Salakhuddin), who did not want to be forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. 

All of this was seen and clearly understood by the ‘judges’ who prevented the defence from asking questions which would demonstrate that such ‘witnesses’ were lying and that the ‘experts’ had no competence to express an opinion.

In this case, all four men were at least charged only with the lesser of the two possible charges, namely involvement in a supposed ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir group’ under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code.  The difference between this charge and that of ‘organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir group’ (Article 205.5 § 1) is either arbitrary or a matter of revenge against political prisoners who, for example, refuse to remain silent about torture.  The difference in sentence is, however, huge, with men accused of the more serious charge typically receiving sentences of 17 – 20 years. All of the men were also accused of ‘planning a violent uprising’ (Article 278) although even the FSB admitted that not one of them was suspected of actions or direct plans to commit any action aimed at ‘overthrowing the Russian constitutional order’

Despite the lack of any grounds for terrorism charges; the flawed nature of the entire ‘trial’ and the clear threat to one defendant’s life, prosecutor Yevgeny Nadolinsky demanded horrific sentences against all four men, including 13 years in the case of Suleimanov (whom he had previously tried to get remanded in custody).  On 29 October 2021, three ‘judges’ from the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) -  Igor Kostin (presiding judge); Roman Plisko and Yevgeny Zviagin – largely obliged, sentencing Seitumer Seitumerov to 17 years; Osman Seitumerov to 14 years; Rustem Seitmemetov to 13 years and Amet Suleimanov to 12 years.  All of these sentences were for the worst of Russian penal institutions, with the first 3.5 years to be spent in a prison, where the conditions are most shocking. 

These sentences were upheld on 9 February 2023, by ‘judge’ Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Mordovin and two colleagues from the Military Court of Appeal in Vlasikha (Moscow region). 

Amet and his wife, Lilia Liumanova, have four sons – Ibrahim, Mukhammed, Manchur and Seit-Osman.  Lilia has recounted how important a family was to Amet who had grown up without his father, and how much time he devoted to the children.  This continued despite his weakening health which had forced him to put aside his work for Crimean Solidarity.  

Amet’s condition has already worsened significantly since his imprisonment and his life is in very real danger.  Please help by asking politicians in your country to contact diplomats in Russia.  Their attention and, possibly, visits would send an important message to Moscow and could help save Amet’s life (details here).

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