The Russian prosecution saw both previous sentences as insufficient and appealed against them in the Rostov Military Court and then in Moscow. The aim was to jail the builder from Sevastopol, a Muslim believer and a father of three, who had defended the rights of other Crimeans before his own arrest, to as much as seventeen years.
Read more: Who is Zeytullaev, the Crimean Tatar Russia just sentenced to 12 years without a crime? (published in April 2017)
During the hearing on 27 July, Ruslan Zeytullaev was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “The order is executed,” which implied the dependence of Russian judiciary on the executive power. He was also holding posters: “Lies won’t last forever,” “Repressions of the 21st century,” and “Truth will prevail.”
In his speech, the prisoner wished his Crimean Tatar compatriots to withstand the ordeal of Russian occupation and preserve their unity:
“Don’t pay attention to today’s reality: searches, detentions, prison sentences, and bans. Even if they imprison the whole nation, all the world will see this injustice, and our people will turn into an example to follow and eventually become stronger.”
Zeytullaev said that the violators of international law will once carry responsibility for their crimes, even if now such a possibility seems to them like a joke. He recalled the words of one aged Crimean Tatar, whose grandson’s house had been searched by Russian security forces:
“For us [Crimean Tatars], there is nothing more to be afraid of. When I was in my grandson’s age, the NKVD came to us. The KGB came to my son, and now the FSB is doing the same. You [perpetrators of repressions] come and go but my people remains.”
After the Supreme Court passed its judgment, Ruslan declared his third hunger strike in protest against the Russian government’s lawless persecution of him and other fellow Crimean Tatars. He demands to allow Ukrainian consul and ombudsman, as well as journalists and human rights defenders, to visit him in remand jail and then return him to Ukraine.
Ruslan stresses that the hunger strike is termless and he is ready to die.
Watch the video about his first hunger strike:
Zeytullaev and three other Crimean Muslims, Nuri Primov, Ferat Sayfullaev, and Rustem Vaitov, were first convicted in September 2016. All of them were recognized guilty of involvement in the local cell of the international Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir. This party, which exists for more than six decades, is committed to peaceful ways of uniting Muslims globally in a single political entity. Never have its members been convicted for organizing violent activities in order to achieve their aims. In Ukraine and most countries around the world, the party operates legally, while in Russia, it was recognized “terrorist” without proper substantiation. On this basis, the Russian human rights organization Memorial recognized the four Crimean Tatars as political prisoners in July 2016.
Thanks to more recent amendments to the Russian Criminal Court, the prosecutors did not need to prove the defendants’ guilt of harmful acts to convict them under the “terrorist” article. What the prosecution did try to persuade the court of was their engagement in a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell, which was allegedly corroborated by private conversations recorded by a provocateur. The transcripts of those conversations made public so far neither show any clear relationship between the prisoners and the banned organization nor prove the very existence of its local cell.