Statement on the Matter of Sentencing of a civil journalist Amet Suleymanov and three other Crimean political prisoners
On October 29, 2021, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don (the Russian Federation) convicted four Crimean Tatars – a citizen journalist of the ‘Crimean Solidarity’ Amet Suleymanov and three other political prisoners of the ‘third Bakhchysarai group’ of the ‘Crimean Muslims case’ Rustem Seitmemetov and brothers Osman and Seitumer Seitumerov. Also Russian law enforcement bodies detained 30 persons (including two journalists) who attempted to attend video-streaming of the verdict announcement.
Amet Suleimanov was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. Rustem Seitmemetov was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment. Osman Seitumerov was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. Seitumer Seitumerov was sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment. Each of them will spend the first 3 years and 6 months in a strict regime prison and the rest of the prison term they will spend in a strict regime colony.
They were convicted of the crimes envisaged by Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (membership in a terrorist organisation) due to their involvement, according to the Federal Security Bureau of the Russian Federation, to the Islamic organisation ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ which is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Russian Federation, but is neither proscribed in Ukraine nor in the majority of the countries of the world.
All four Crimean Tatars were detained by the Russian law enforcement bodies on 11 March 2020 after their homes were searched. According to their relatives and defense lawyers, during the searches at the homes of Amet Suleymanov and Rustem Seitmemetov Russian law enforcement bodies confiscated illegal literature which they had planted themselves in order to fabricate ‘evidence’ to prove that the two Crimean Tatars belong to ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’. On March 12, 2020 the so-called ‘Kyiv District Court of Simferopol’ placed Amet Suleymanov under house arrest and detained the other three Crimean Tatars.
Their cases were heard with grave violations of right to fair trial and the main evidence for the prosecution was testimony by anonymous witnesses or witnesses who later stated that they testified under pressure, as well as linguistic examinations of the conversations of the accused Muslims. Meanwhile, motions by the defense for alternative examinations were ignored by the judges. These facts indicate fabrication of evidence by the Federal Security Bureau of the Russian Federation.
Amet Suleymanov is a citizen journalist of the ‘Crimean Solidarity’ initiative and before his detention he covered searches and detention of Crimean Tatars in Crimea occupied by Russia. Amet has been diagnosed with arterial and mitral insufficiency and a valve replacement surgery has been recommended to him, which is impossible to conduct in imprisonment conditions. Removal of Suleymanov from house arrest and transportation to a prison threatens his life and health. Defense attorneys plan to appeal and until the verdict becomes final Amet Suleymanov has to stay under house arrest.
We are stressing that illegal detention and sentencing of Amet Suleymanov, Rustem Seitmemetov, Osman and Seitumer Seitumerov is a grave violation of international humanitarian law which prohibits the occupying state from enacting its criminal legislation over an occupied territory (Art. 64 IV of the Geneva Convention), while political prosecution of an identified group or community is a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Art. 7 (1)(h)).
We, the representatives of human rights organizations, strongly condemn the persecution of Amet Suleymanov, Rustem Seitmemetov, Osman and Seitumer Seitumerov and other Crimean Tatar activists in the occupied Crimea in politically motivated cases and demand that Russia as an occupying state must:
- immediately release Amet Suleymanov, Rustem Seitmemetov, Osman and Seitumer Seitumerov and all other Crimean political prisoners;
- immediately stop the use of the anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation of the Russian Federation in the occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol;
- stop illegal searches, detentions as well as other forms of political pressure against people who exercise their right to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, consciousness, religion, and peaceful gatherings;
- abide by the responsibilities under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We call on governments of foreign states, international organizations, and in particular – members of the Crimea Platform to:
- condemn the actions of the Russian Federation regarding the illegal detentions of Ukrainian citizens in the occupied Crimea;
- increase pressure on the Russian government to ensure the release of all political prisoners and end the persecution of Ukrainian citizens in the occupied Crimea;
- impose personal sanctions against officials of the occupying authorities involved in the politically motivated persecution of Ukrainian citizens in fabricated cases, as well as those involved in other major violations of human rights and rules of international humanitarian law in Crimea;
- demand that Russia allows access of the international monitoring missions of UN, OSCE, and the Council of Europe to the occupied Crimea;
- provide all-round support to victims of political repressions in Crimea as well as their families;
- use the instruments of the Crimea Platform and other mechanisms of international cooperation to stop political repressions in Crimea.
We call on the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ministry of Reintegration of Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol to:
- ensure an effective investigation of the illegal imprisonment and persecution of Amet Suleymanov, Rustem Seitmemetov, Osman and Seitumer Seitumerov and all other violations of fundamental human rights in the occupied Crimea;
- sign a draft law #2689 to implement norms of the international criminal law and international humanitarian law in order to introduce a fair responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on the occupied territories;
- initiate decisive actions within the framework of the Crimea Platform, aimed at combating political repressions in Crimea.
Human Rights Centre ZMINA
Platform for the Release of Political Prisoners
Media Initiative for Human Rights
Crimean Human Rights Group
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Institute of Mass Information
Center for Civic Liberties
Association of Relatives of the Kremlin Political Prisoners
Regional Center for Human Rights
Center of Civic Education “Almenda”
Human Rights Home Crimea