Akhtem Chiygoz

Chiygoz-released-en

Occupation:

deputy chairman of the Mejlis (national representative and executive body) of the Crimean Tatar People

Lawyers:

Nikolai Polozov, Aleksandr Lesovoi, Emil Kurbedinov

Incrimination:

organization of mass disturbances (Part One of Article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Detained:

29 Jan. 2015

Released:

25.10.2017

Sentence:

8 years in colony

1000 DAYS

SPENT IN CUSTODY

Akhtem Chiygoz is a prominent figure in the Crimean Tatar national movement. He is a deputy head of the Crimean Tatar representative body, the Mejlis. When after the annexation of Crimea, Moscow banned two key Crimean Tatar leaders, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, from entering the peninsula, Chiygoz became an acting head of the Mejlis.

In January 2015, he was arrested and sent to remand jail.

On 11 September 2017, the Kremlin-controlled “Supreme Court of Crimea” sentenced Chiygoz to eight years in a penal colony. He was found guilty of “organizing mass unrest” during a pro-Ukrainian rally that took place in the Crimean capital on 26 February 2014, weeks before Russia annexed the peninsula.

On that day, Crimean Tatar and other pro-Ukrainian demonstrators reportedly blocked the Crimean regional parliament from passing a resolution on the separating from Ukraine. A smaller pro-Russian rally was held at the same place. Clashes erupted as a result of poor work of the police. In result, 30 people suffered injuries, and two subsequently died.

“The people being prosecuted are those who defended the laws of the country, international norms, and rules,” Chiygoz emphasized in his last word before the verdict. “The trial was initiated by the occupying country, which has no right to this.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the conviction of Akhtem Chiygoz “a verdict to Russia.”

Akhtem Chiygoz spent more than 2,5 years behind bars. His mother died during the trial, in July 2017. On the demand of the international community, Russian authorities allowed the prisoner to see his mother two weeks before she passed away. “I am proud that I brought up such a son!” she said him at that last meeting. Chiygoz was denied attending her funeral.

Chiygoz was recognized prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and political prisoner by the authoritative Memorial Russian Human Rights Center.

On 25 October 2017, after the personal intercession of Turkish President Erdogan, Akhtem Chiygoz and another deputy chairman of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov, were pardoned by Russian President Putin and transferred to Turkey. The same week they arrived in mainland Ukraine.

Exculpatory evidence:

The whole show trial of Akhtem Chiygoz was illegal from the very start, given that Russia recognized the Autonomous Republic of Crimea until March 2014 as a part of Ukraine.

Russian authorities have been unable to find any incriminating evidence proving Chiygoz is guilty of what they accused him of. No video filmed on that day and attached to the case proves that Chiygoz either played an organizational role during the pro-Ukrainian rally or personally participated in the clashes with pro-Russian opponents. Instead, the recordings show Chiygoz trying to calm the activists in order to avoid violence.

The great majority of witnesses (209 of 213) also did not corroborate the unfounded charges against him.

The Moscow-appointed “head of Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov and speaker of the puppet Crimean parliament Vladimir Konstantinov were questioned as witnesses for the prosecution. They failed to add any substantial evidence regarding the role of Chiygoz in the events.

All the defendants in the so-called “26 February case” are Crimean Tatars, and no pro-Russian activist has been held accountable for the developments of that day. This betrays the real motives behind this politically motivated case: to oppose ethnic communities of Crimea to each other and intimidate the most active and organized anti-occupation group.

The trial was meant to show that everyone, from an authoritative leader to ordinary activist, can be punished if he or she does not choose to keep silence or leave Crimea.

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