“See you in the Hague!” Last word of Crimean Tatar leader Umerov on Russian show trial

Russian judges decided to send the Crimean Tatar politician Ilmi Umerov to a settlement colony for the expression of his personal view on the unlawful nature of the occupation of Crimea. 

Crimea

Article by: Ilmi Umerov

On 27 September 2017, a Kremlin-controlled court in occupied Crimea sentenced Ilmi Umerov, one of the senior leaders of the Crimean Tatar national movement and deputy head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, to 2 years of settlement colony.

Umerov was found guilty of violating Russia’s territorial integrity on the pretext of his public denial of Moscow’s “right” to Crimea. One of the most striking things about his conviction is that a Russian prosecutor demanded only a suspended sentence but the court decided in favor of a real one. Ilmi Umerov has a number of chronic diseases and needs constant medical care.

Read more: Who is Ilmi Umerov, the Crimean Tatar Russia so fears?

The lawyer Nikolai Polozov, who had been illegally removed from the trial, said at the press conference that in this context, two years in colony are comparable to a death sentence.

This conviction takes place just two and a half weeks after another deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz, was sentenced to 8-year imprisonment for his presence on a pro-Ukrainian rally even before Russia had annexed Crimea. Since 2016, the Mejlis itself has been banned in the Russian Federation. Moscow sabotages the implementation of the order of the International Criminal Court regarding the reinstatement of Mejlis.

Read more: Russia’s show trial and sentence against Crimean Tatar leader Chiygoz. What you need to know

For Umerov’s lawyer Mark Feygin, the verdict was unexpected even despite the “diabolic and cannibal” character of Russia’s repressive system. Euromaidan Press publishes an English translation of the powerful last word Ilmi Umerov delivered on trial on 20 September.

Strengthening of economic sanctions would make Russia itself decide to return Crimea under the jurisdiction of Ukraine.

“I do not consider myself guilty of anything before Russia. She is guilty before me! It was she who committed an act of aggression against Ukraine, having occupied and annexed my Motherland, Crimea!

I am judged in a fabricated case. And, of course, not for my statements in a certain TV program but for my political convictions and views that I don’t hide.

Not recognizing Russia’s jurisdiction in Crimea, I consider it possible to return Crimea only in a non-violent way. I think that effective strengthening of economic sanctions would make Russia herself decide to return Crimea under the jurisdiction of Ukraine.

Thus, my opinion fully coincides with the position of the entire civilized world. This is confirmed by numerous international acts and treaties, as well as UN General Assembly resolutions of 27 March 2014 and 19 December 2016, where the United Nations reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in her internationally recognized borders. It does not recognize the legitimacy of any change in the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol stemming from the results of the “all-Crimea referendum” held on 16 March 2014, since this “referendum” is not valid, and also recognizes Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine, which has been under the temporary occupation of the Russian Federation.

Let me remind once again that, according to Part Four of Article 15 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, international law is granted priority over the domestic legislation. In addition, even your President Putin has recently said, commenting on the statements of one Russian official about foreign policy: “Everyone has the right to have a personal opinion.”

Umerov and his lawyer Mark Feygin. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

I also want to emphasize that there are borders between Ukraine and Russia, which are recognized by the two countries themselves and throughout the world. And I rather advocate the restoration of the territorial integrity of both Russia and Ukraine in their internationally recognized borders, formed after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The changes of 2014 are the result of aggression on the part of Russia, of the annexation of Crimea and establishment of the de facto Russian authority in Crimea. These changes cannot be considered as legitimate.

In the events of February and March 2014, the Crimean Tatar people showed their firm civic position of adhering to the integrity of Ukraine, and now the overwhelming majority hasn’t changed it. It is for this position that the Crimean Tatar people found themselves under the repressive roller of the Russian occupation authorities de facto established in Crimea, as reflected in the UN General Assembly resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)” of 19 December 2016:

“Condemning… the reported serious violations and abuses committed against residents of Crimea, in particular extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, politically motivated prosecutions, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, violence, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and their transfer from Crimea to the Russian Federation, as well as reported abuses of other fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, religion or belief…”

Searches and arrests of Crimean Tatar activists by Russian law enforcement became almost routine since the annexation of Crimea in 2016. Photo: investigator.org.ua

Today in Crimea, the people who betrayed Ukraine are judging those who did not.

As concerns specifically the case against me, in the course of the proceedings, which have lasted since May, the absolute unfoundedness of the accusation was confirmed, and it collapsed completely. The demonized FSB [Federal Security Service of Russia] actually failed even to properly fabricate the criminal case into three volumes over the whole year. However, this did not prevent the prosecutor from demanding a conviction on me.

My lawyers have done a good job and I am grateful to them!

Only an acquittal will satisfy us. Any other decision will be challenged on the next judiciary level and then in international courts.

However, we aren’t building illusions. We don’t expect an acquittal. Today in Crimea, the people who betrayed Ukraine are judging those who did not. Traitors are judging patriots!

The fight is continuing regardless of the content of the verdict. The Crimean Tatar people are defending the security of the entire civilized world here. If Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and Crimea remains unpunished, it will become a precedent because of which the whole global order will finally collapse.

Ilmi Umerov speaks sitting in the horse’s saddle at a rally in commemoration of the 1944 Stalinist deportation of Crimean Tatars. Photo: Ukrinform

I will end with a line from the national anthem of the Crimean Tatar people:

“Ant etkenmen, söz bergenmen millet içün ölmege…”

“I’ve pledged, I gave my word to die for my people…”

See you in the Hague!”

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Translated by: Ihor Vynokurov

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