Russia’s Crimean Tatar captive goes on hunger strike demanding justice

Crimea, International, More, Political prisoners, Ukraine

Article by: Ihor Vynokurov

31-y.o. Crimean Tatar prisoner Ruslan Zeytullaev, a father of three little kids, has declared a termless hunger strike in a remand jail of Rostov-on-Don.

His fate requires urgent publicity on the part of media, human rights organizations, and politicians around the world. Only firm and resolute international pressure on the Kremlin can put an end to the assault on the Crimean Tatars, Crimea’s indigenous nation, and save the innocent captive from tragic consequences.

Ruslan is now undergoing a farcical trial in Russia for the second time. As he explains, the hunger strike is his personal act of protest against the ruthless xenophobic repression of the Crimean Tatar people, of which his own unfair case is a part:

“Kidnappings, murders, illegal detentions and interrogations, dozens of prisoners, hundreds of administrative arrests, huge unconstitutional fines on the participants of meetings—all this and much more is going on in the territory of Crimea since it fell under the jurisdiction of Russia.”

Ruslan Zeytullaev has announced several demands:

  • stop all the politically motivated cases for “extremism,” “terrorism,” and “mass disorder” groundlessly instituted against the Crimean Tatars,
  • allow the representatives of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry to visit him in remand jail,
  • reverse the unlawful conviction of the Crimean Tatar Muslims Ferat Sayfullaev, Nuri Primov, and Rustem Vaitov, who were sentenced to five years in prison,
  • transfer the latter three, as well as Zeytullaev himself, to Ukraine as the citizens of this state.

Watch: Why is the Kremlin taking Ukrainian political hostages? | VIDEO

Ruslan’s lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, who was himself under arrest for performing professional duties in Crimea, calls his client’s act “the ultimate motion of despair”:

“Ruslan took this step because all the petitions and arguments of the defense haven’t been considered. He went on a hunger strike, which can damage his health, hoping that this case will be objectively examined, and his arguments will be checked.”

As of today, more than twenty Crimean Tatars are illegally kept prisoners by Russian authorities for alleged links to the international Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir or participation in a rally against the annexation of Crimea on 26 February 2014. In addition, the deputy chair of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Ilmi Umerov is waiting for trial because of his words about Crimea as the Ukrainian land.

Read more:

In September 2016, Ruslan Zeytullaev was sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged involvement in a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell. But then Russia’s Supreme Court sent his case to retrial because the prosecution wanted even longer sentence for him as an “organizer of a terrorist community.” All the “evidence” against him consists of secretly recorded harmless conversations about politics and religion, confiscated religious literature, and forced testimonies, some of them rebutted in court by the people who made them. There is nothing proving Ruslan’s “guilt” as either an organizer or a member of the “terrorist cell”: that cell has never existed.

Read more: Imaginary “terrorists” with no terror acts: Russia’s collective punishment of Crimean Muslims

The respected Russian Human Rights Center “Memorial” recognized Ruslan Zeytullaev, Ferat Sayfullaev, Nuri Primov, and Rustem Vaitov political prisoners. In March 2017, the European Parliament adopted a special resolution “Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and the situation in Crimea,” calling on the Kremlin to release all its Ukrainian hostages, including Zeytullaev, Sayfullaev, Vaitov, and Primov.

Read more: European Parliament: Russia should free all the illegally imprisoned Ukrainians #LetMyPeopleGo


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