Russia uses wholesale arrests to try crush Crimean Tatar human rights movement

3 July 2019, 15:18 | Monitoring | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Halya Coynash

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, May 29, 2019

Russia is using fabricated charges carrying huge sentences to try to crush the Crimean Solidarity movement in occupied Crimea and all Crimean Tatar human rights activists. This is the damning assessment of the Memorial Human Rights Centre which has recognized as political prisoners all 24 Crimean Tatar activists arrested in Russia’s most recent ‘operation’.

Such a conclusion is hardly surprising given the scale of the attack and the fact that literally all of those targeted are civic activists involved in helping political prisoners and their families, and in many cases, reporting on rights abuses for the civic initiative Crimean Solidarity. Memorial’s analysis is, however, important in highlighting both the flawed nature of the charges which Russia has now illegally brought against 55 Ukrainian Muslims in Crimea, and the fact that it is clearly using such prosecutions as a way of trying to silence Crimean Tatars with an active civic position.

The ‘operation’ that began on 27 March 2019 was the largest-scale wave of armed searches and arrests since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. The FSB and other armed and masked enforcement officers turned up at the homes of 24 activists from Simferopol. Judging by initial reports, such as that of lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, it seems likely that they planted ‘prohibited literature’ during their ‘searches’ of these homes. Four men were not at home, however three of them (civic journalists Osman Arifmemetov and Remzi Bekirov, as well as activist Vladlen Abdulkadyrov were seized and violently beaten that evening. It seems likely that the FSB had planned this case with 24 ‘defendants’, so when the 24th man, Edem Yayachikov, was (seemingly) not found, they arrested another activist, Rayim Aivazov instead. Aivazov described his arrest during the detention hearing, saying that he had been beaten and subjected to a mock execution.

The first 23 activists were taken almost immediately to Russia, where they are being held in three different pre-trial prisons in the Rostov oblast. There are no grounds for their detention at all, and the brutal speed with which they were taken away from Crimea is yet further proof that this was a targeted operation aimed at maximum terrorization.

Memorial HRC first addresses the question of the charges that the men are facing. All are accused of ‘involvement’ in the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, a pan-Islamist party which is legal in Ukraine. It points out that it has consistently condemned such prosecutions and says that Russia is the only country in the world that has declared Hizb ut-Tahrir a ‘terrorist organization’.

“In not one of the criminal prosecutions that we are aware of, that have resulted in more than 250 Muslims being imprisoned, has there been any sign of terrorism, or even of plans or discussion of terrorist acts or the use of weapons”.

“This time repression is directed not merely against peaceful Muslims, not simply against Crimean Tatars, but against peaceful civic resistance to the Kremlin’s political repression in Crimea. People who have provided victims with information support, who organized parcels to prisoners and help for their families, and regularly attended politically motivated court hearings, have now ended up behind bars. Most of the arrested men are connected with the human rights movement Crimean Solidarity which supports victims of persecution. It is extremely likely that in this situation, the convenient and already standard charge of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir is purely a pretext and means for crushing Crimean Tatars’ civic solidarity and activism.”

It should be stressed that Russia’s attack on civic and human rights activists did not begin with the 24 men whom Memorial has now declared political prisoners. Human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku has now been imprisoned on the same fabricated charges for over three years. The attack on Crimean Solidarity which was created after the arrests of Kuku and nine other men between February and May 2016, began in October 2017. Since then, a significant percentage of the Crimean Tatars arrested on Hizb ut-Tahrir charges have been Crimean Solidarity civic journalists and activists.

One of the advantages to Russia of such mass arrests is that it is hard to be aware of each individual victim and his family. Each, however, needs our support – both through letters showing that they are not forgotten and in efforts informing politicians and the media about their cases.

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Last comments

  • bopa | 15 October 2019, 22:45

    Тим більше, що відновлено стан Православної церкви в Україні, який вона мала у ХУІІ ст. Митрополію з перспективою на патріархію, що дає можливість користати здобуткам, досвідом інших братніх

  • Paraeklezyarh | 15 October 2019, 13:47

    Те що відбувається з ПЦУ після отримання Томосу про автокефалію назвати "розвитком" важко. Швидше то були намагання створити (а в кого протидіяти створенню) автокефального Київського

  • velovs@ukr.net | 12 October 2019, 18:30

    Ну що ж: та штучна ізоляція (невизнання) ПЦУ у світовому православ'ї, що її цинічно й зухвало інспірував, тиснув і нагнітав (відповідні страшилки-жахалки) МП, по суті, подолана. Принаймні, успішний

  • Paraeklezyarh | 12 October 2019, 15:08

    Слава Богу ! Це дійсно вияв мужності предстоятеля та єпископату Елладської церкви. Пам'ятаймо про це.

  • velovs@ukr.net | 11 October 2019, 17:03

    Водночас, як каже і акцентує Святе Письмо, це саме Господь "змінює часи і літа, СКИДАЄ ЦАРІВ і ПОСТАВЛЯЄ ЦАРІВ; дає мудрість мудрим і розуміння розумним" (Дан.2:21). ----- А ось щодо декого