Ayder Azermatov, Oksana Akulenko
- part 2 of Art.167 of the Russian Criminal Code (“deliberate destruction or damage to property inflicted by means of fire, explosion, or by any other generally dangerous method”)
- part 2 of Art.282.1 (“participation in an extremist group”): this charge was later dropped
April 11, 2018
2 years of imprisonment in a colony of general regime on part 2 of Art.167 of the Russian Criminal Code
days in custody
27-year-old Oleksandr Steshenko is originally from the city of Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine. He was arrested on 11 April 2018 by FSB border guard officers at the Chonhar crossing point when Oleksandr was entering Crimea. He managed to call his mother on that day, explaining that border guards detained him because they had doubts about the authenticity of his photo in the passport. Steshenko wasn’t allowed to meet with a lawyer during the first few days of his detention. On 24 April, lawyer Edem Semedlyaev learnt that Steshenko was under administrative arrest in Simferopol’s temporary detention facility for having allegedly smoked at a bus station and was due to be released later that day. In the evening however, Steshenko was taken away to an unknown location in a minibus that was not carrying any registration plate.
He was held incommunicado for almost a month, before appearing on Russian TV in a video showing his alleged “confessions” over his participation in an “extremist group.” According to the version presented by the Russian FSB, Steshenko was part of a group created by Refat Chubarov (current chairman of the Medzhlis) to set fire to the house of Emirali Ablaev, the current Russian Mufti of Crimea, and to commit other types of “provocations” in the peninsula. Steshenko, together with another complice, were allegedly promised 500 dollars each to carry out each of these acts. He was sentenced in July 2018 to 2 years of imprisonment in a colony of general regime for the “deliberate destruction or damage to property inflicted by means of fire, explosion, or by any other generally dangerous method”.
Steshenko confessed his guilt and concluded the agreement with the investigation. His case was reviewed in the special order. The trial was held in two days: on July 25 the trial has started and on July 26 the judge Yuriy Hulevich read the sentence.
The first pretext used by FSB border guard officers to justify Steshenko’s detention because of a defective passport is contradicted by the fact that he had travelled with the same document several times to Crimea before his arrest without encountering any problems.
According to the lawyer Edem Semedlyaev, the FSB commonly uses administrative arrests as a first step before bringing more serious criminal charges, as was the case with Steshenko.
It is believed that the charges later brought by FSB for alleged “deliberate destruction or damage to property” and “participation in an extremist group” are aimed at further discrediting the Medzhlis and its leaders accusing Refat Chubarov (current chairman of the Medzhlis in exile) of having ordering the creation of an “extremist group”. Russia’s ban of the representative body of ethnic Crimean Tatars has been condemned internationally. Oleksandr Steshenko said to his lawyer Edem Semedlyaev that he was tortured for confession.
Tortures and pressure
According to one of the lawyers of Steshenko – Edem Semedlyaev, Olekande\r told that he was tortured. He told that he was beaten after the detention at the administrative border with Crimea and he was forced to sign the confession. After that he was arrested for 12 days on the fabricated case to hide the signs of beatings. On April 26, the other lawyer of Steshenko – Ayder Azamatov stated that his client is missing. As Azamatov, referring to the witnesses, when Olexander might have been released after the administrative arrest, he was put to the car without registration plates and was driven to an unknown direction.
Only on May 21 following the publication of the video of confession of Oleksandr the place of his detention was become known. All this – the absence of information about the whereabouts of Oleksandr, what is in fact incommunicado detention, and the following confession demonstrate that Steshenko was tortured.