World powers, human rights organizations indignant about Russia’s conviction of Crimean Tatar leader
The illegal sentencing of Akhtem Chiygoz, a Ukrainian citizen and deputy head of the Crimean Tatar representative assembly (Mejlis), to 8 years in jail by the Moscow-installed authorities in Crimea caused indignation and protest across the world.
A number of world governments, politicians, and international organizations have made statements condemning the farcical trial, as well as the general atmosphere of repression in the Russian-occupied territory, and calling to free Chiygoz and other hostages of the Kremlin.
In its response to the verdict, the U.S. Department of State points to the legal nonsense that underlies the case as the clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists in Simferopol on 26 February 2014, which were imputed to Chiygoz as their alleged “organizer,” had occurred before Russia formally annexed Crimea and extended its “jurisdiction” to it.
The Department of State also considers the whole case as a continuation of a politically motivated action against the national representative body of the Crimean Tatar people.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis was outlawed in Russia in April 2016. A year later, the International Court of Justice prescribed Russia to restore the functioning of the Mejlis and refrain from restricting the right of the Crimean Tatars to representation. However, the Kremlin has not adhered to the order of the Hague judges.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) September 13, 2017
As the spokesperson for the European External Action Service noted on Tuesday, the EU had been consistently following the case of Chiygoz and insisting on his release along with all the other Ukrainian citizens illegally imprisoned by Russia. The European Union also expects that the charges against another deputy head of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov, who faces five-year imprisonment for saying that Crimea belongs to Ukraine under international law, be dropped immediately.
Minister for Europe and the Americas of the United Kingdom Alan Duncan has stressed that the verdict on Chiygoz “appears part of a worrying effort to repress any political opposition in Crimea.” Duncan specifies blatant violations Russian occupiers committed during the trial: the defendant was denied an option to attend court proceedings in person and participated in them via a video conference from a remand prison cell, while his lawyer Nikolai Polozov faced intimidation, including his own temporary detention earlier this year.
— Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) September 11, 2017
The French Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs has joined the call on Moscow to release all the persons whose detention violates international law. It has reminded that under UN resolution 71/205 “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine),” regional and international human rights monitoring missions and NGOs should have unrestricted access to the whole territory of Ukraine, including the occupied Crimean peninsula.
Human Rights Commissioner of the German Federal Government Bärbel Kofler said on Wednesday that he was “indignant” about the conviction of Akhtem Chiygoz, who was punished just for expressing his commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The judgment passed by the so-called “supreme court of Crimea,” the Commissioner noted, violates all the legal principles, particularly those of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Russian Federation.
The authoritative organizations Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International demand to immediately free Akhtem Chiygoz. With the sentence on the deputy leader of the Mejlis, Human Rights Watch underscores, Russian occupation authorities warn everyone that jail is the price for voicing dissent in Crimea.
“It appears that their only intention has been to ensure that he is locked up for a long time,” says Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at HRW.
In Amnesty’s words, Chiygoz is a prisoner of conscience, whose sham trial “tops a wave of spurious and demonstrably false criminal and administrative cases instigated by the occupying Russian authorities against members of the Crimean Tatar community.”
Chiygoz was found guilty of organizing “mass disturbances” despite the fact that the video footage and eyewitness accounts demonstrate he had been trying to prevent violence during the events of 26 February 2014, Amnesty observes.
On Wednesday, 13 September, a rally in support of Akhtem Chiygoz, other Crimean Tatar victims of the Russian regime, and all the Ukrainian citizens suffering under occupation, was held on the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv. Chiygoz addressed to its participants with a letter he wrote in the remand jail the next day after his conviction:
“How much cynicism, lies, and, most importantly, fear of the strength, courage, and determination of my people is behind each pronounced word and actions of the judges and Russian authorities.
“Every Crimean Tatar, every Ukrainian should understand that our right to freedom, to a decent life and the love of the Motherland is a danger to the Russian regime.
The verdict absorbed the hopelessness and anger of the collaborators.
But their joy is premature.”
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