Participating in mass riots (Part Two of Article 212 of Russian Criminal Code)
4.5 years of a suspended sentence with еркуу years of probation
Days of imprisonment
26-year-old Mustafa Degermendzhy was arrested on 7 May 2015 in Hrushevka village. According to his parents, the detention was carried out by a group of 6-8 people in full gear. He is one of the defendants in the so-called “February 26th case.”
On 26 February 2014, a large-scale rally of supporters and opponents of Ukraine’s territorial integrity took place in front of the Crimean Parliament House. Among the first participants were Crimean Tatar and pro-Ukrainian activists who were opposed by pro-Russian activists organized by the leaders of the “Russian Unity” party led by Sergei Aksyonov (Aksenov), who is now the head of the Russian government of Crimea.
In January 2015, the Crimean administration of Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case about mass riots at a rally on February 26.
The detainees included supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine: deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Akhtem Chiygoz, as well as activists Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhy, Eskender Kantemirov, Talat Yunusov, Eskender Emirvaliev, Arsen Yunusov, and Eskender Nebiev.
Later, the court divided the “February 26th case” into two: separating the main suspect, Akhtem Chiygoz, who at that time was the de-facto leader of the Mejlis in Crimea. into a separate trial.
On the initiative of lawyer Dzemil Temishev, activist Talyat Yunusov and ATR broadcaster Eskender Nebiev agreed with the investigation and pleaded guilty on the condition that their testimony would not be evidence in the cases of other participants of the “February 26th case”. In December 2015, Talyat Yunusov was given a 3.5 year suspended sentence, and Eskender Nebiyev – two years of a suspended sentence.
On 11 September 2017, a Russian court sentenced Chiygoz to eight years in a high-security penal colony on charges of organizing “mass riots”, which meant protests over annexation of Russia’s peninsula. On 25 October 2017, the Russian authorities released Akhtem Chygoz and transferred him to Turkey, later he arrived in Kyiv. On 19 June 2018, more than three years after the first detentions, the Kremlin-controlled Simferopol Central Court announced its sentence – the participants of the “February 26th case” were given suspended sentences. Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy were given a 4 years and 6 months suspended sentence, Arsen Yunusov and Eskender Kantemirov – a 4 years suspended sentence, Eskender Emirvaliev – a 3 years and 6 months suspended sentence with a probation period of 3 years each.
On 14 February 2019, the Kremlin-controlled High Court of Crimea dismissed the appeal of the defense of Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhi and upheld the sentence.
- KHPG: Jailed for proving that Crimea did not ask for annexation
- KHPG: 8 years for a demonstration if you’re Crimean Tatar
- KHPG: Jailed for refusing to bear false testimony against Crimean Tatar leader
Proof of innocence:
According to Halya Coynash,
“Chiygoz is charged with organizing ‘a mass riot’, Asanov, Degermendzhy and 3 other Crimean Tatars with taking part in it. The charges pertain to a pre-annexation demonstration, on Feb 26, 2014, where pro-Ukrainian demonstrators, mainly Crimean Tatar, gathered to prevent an attempt to force through an illegal change in Crimea’s status. There were around 10 thousand from the pro-Ukrainian side, and several thousand pro-Russian demonstrators.
The charges are surreal, since even had this been a mass riot, it happened on Ukrainian territory under Ukrainian law. Russia’s own criminal code acknowledges that it has no jurisdiction over such events.
Only Crimean Tatars are targeted, although pro-Russian demonstrators were present, and the two deaths that day were in fact on their side of the demonstration.
Nobody is facing charges over the deaths, probably because it is clear that no Crimean Tatar was to blame. With respect to the death of Valentina Korneva, her husband has specifically stated that he does not think the men on trial had anything to do with it, and that it was probably paid pro-Russian thugs brought to the demonstration in two coaches.
At the 80th hearing, important video footage was examined. Chiygoz is seen, together with the Mufti and some other Mejlis figures, behind the Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov. On the video footage here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdVKJjYsY8o&feature=youtu.be, Chubarov can be seen trying to speak and realizing he can’t compete with the noise of the crowd. Chiygoz and the other men began making gestures which seem clearly aimed at asking the crowd to be quiet.
The prosecution has claimed, however, that Chiygoz, “aware that his instructions would be carried out by voice and gestures understood among supporters of the Mejlis, demanded in Russian and Crimean Tatar that the supporters use force against the demonstrating citizens, members and supporters of the Russian Unity party”.
If they genuinely thought this, Polozov rightly notes, they should have brought similar charges against, for example, the Mufti. He, however, has since chosen to collaborate with the occupying regime, unlike the Mejlis.
While the video footage shown at the 80 and 81st hearings show nothing to back the prosecution’s claim of calls to violence from Chiygoz, they do demonstrate where the attempts to cause trouble were coming from.
You can clearly see, for example, pro-Russian paramilitaries, Cossacks and members of the Russian Unity party gathered in the inner courtyard. Polozov notes that on some of the video footage members of the pro-Russian contingent can be seen actively trying to provoke trouble or deliberately cause crushes. Here, for example, https://youtu.be/YOth05NskSo a pro-Ukrainian demonstrator has become unwell as a result of such crushing. Typically, the occupation authorities have made no effort to identify this person.
The video footage in the case of all the men accused incriminates only the prosecution since there are no grounds for either calling the event a ‘mass riot’ or for any specific charges. There is no footage to show Chiygoz doing anything but trying to calm tempers.
In Asanov’s case there is supposedly a ‘victim’. The video footage shows this pro-Russian ‘victim’ throwing a bottle with water which hit Asanov on the head. Asanov was too far away to hit him back, yet the bottle-thrower is treated as the aggrieved party, and a young father of four has spent almost 2 years in detention, charging with “causing him pain”. There is nothing to confirm that the blow even happened since the individual (identified only as Ivkin) did not report it or seek medical assistance.
The cynicism in Degermendzhy’s case is accentuated by the fact that video footage (around 3.15 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brYjd2Paks0 ) clearly shows Mustafa Degermendzhy early on helping his father, who has severe asthma and was in obvious distress, to leave the demonstration. His father needed medical assistance and Mustafa did not leave him.
There are strong grounds for believing that both Asanov and Degermendzhy are imprisoned for refusing to give false testimony against Chiygoz.
The situation with secret ‘witnesses’ is no better. Polozov reported after the 79th hearing that he had serious doubts as to whether the last such individual understands what he’s saying. At one hearing. he claimed that he had arrived by car which he left at the railway station, heading to the demonstration by foot, and then the next day refused to answer the same question. Other claims as to what he allegedly witnessed are physically impossible. He asserted, for example, that he understood that people had burst into the Crimean parliament buildings since the number outside got smaller. There were thousands of people outside the building and there is no way he could have observed a reduction in numbers.
Polozov says that the witness gets muddled, seems to have no sense of timing and cannot, in fact, confirm or say anything sensible about Chiygoz’s actions either on the eve of or during the demonstration.
The witness asserts that he saw several demonstrators from the pro-Ukrainian side with hidden spade sticks, yet cannot say that he saw any being used.
Chiygoz is prevented from even being present at his own trial, and the sound quality is so bad, that he often cannot hear what is happening.
There are compelling grounds for suspecting that Chiygoz, Asanov, Degermendzhy and the Mejlis itself are facing reprisals because the demonstration that day prevented Moscow from achieving the planned seizure of control without Russian troops and the sanctions and international condemnation that they have brought.”
No evidence of torture has been established.