History repeats itself: it is on the same charges that in 1938, an ancestor of three of the accused was executed by the NKVD, to be posthumously rehabilitated in 1990 as illegally accused and repressed. [/editorial]
Yesterday, on 29 October, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia sentenced four Crimean Tatars from Bakhchysarai to 56 years in total, Crimean Solidarity reports.
The charges brought against the four are affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic organization, peaceful in nature yet labelled as “terrorist” in Russia. This continues Russia’s deliberate and massive persecution of Crimean Tatars, ethnic Muslims and indigenous people of Crimea, who put up primary resistance to occupation since 2014.
The four Crimean Tatars — historian and activist Seitumer Seitumerov, engineer and transporter, and activist Osman Seitumerov, constructor Rustem Seitmemetov, and citizen journalist at Crimean Solidarity and communications manager Amet Suleimanov — were sentenced to 17, 14, 13, and 12 years’ imprisonment respectively in the maximum-security correctional facility.
According to the authorities, the defendants were members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and prepared for “forcible seizure of power through total Islamization of the population.”
Since the occupation, Russia has used Hizb ut-Tahrir allegations against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who profess Islam to gag their activism.
Memorial recognised the defendants of this case, like many others accused of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership, as political prisoners. That is because huge sentences are given based on alleged affiliation with an organization baselessly criminalized as a terrorist and with no hard facts of the prisoners’ involvement in terrorism.
In the case of S. Seitumerov, O. Seitumerov, Seitmemetov, and Suleimanov, the accusation line was built solely upon two wiretaps illegally recorded in the mosque attended by the defendants, and testimonies of two secret witnesses, the credibility of whom is impossible to access. No weapons, explosive devices, or terrorist act plans were discovered.
Russian security service officers massively raided the homes of Crimean Tatars and detained the four political prisoners on 11 March 2020. Amet Suleimanov was under home custody due to health reasons and the other three detainees were first in Simferopol detention facility, and then transferred to Rostov-on-Don where they stayed for almost a year awaiting a knowingly guilty verdict.
In their mock trial, the marionette court traditionally upheld the prosecutor’s side, ignoring the interests of an individual and their health. Russian prisons are known for their poor sanitary conditions, harsh discipline, and limited access to medical care may be amounted to effective torture for two of the accused Crimean Tatars who suffer from serious health issues. Amet Suleimanov needs regular doctor consultations as he has arterial and mitral insufficiency. Doctors insist that he has heart surgery but the verdict may stand on the way to Amet’s treatment. And Osman Seitumerov suffers from a number of diseases, including a concussion as a result of an accident.
War, occupation, persecution destroy more destinies than one may imagine. Families of the oppressed always suffer, too. Rustem, Seitumer, and Amet have minor children. Osman Seitumerov and Seitumer Seitumerov are borthers, and Rustem Seitmemetov is their uncle. Their imprisonment is not the first totalitarian measure to silence this Crimean Tatar family. Their ancestors were subjected to Stalin’s 1944 mass deportation of Crimean Tatars.
Osman Seitumerov in his final say in the court on 27 October spoke of the long-suffering destiny of his family:
“Every Crimean Tatar family went through the same thing [lawlessness and injustice of the authorities]. In this connection, I think it is necessary to give some chronology of my ancestors.”
Osman went on presenting that his great grandfather, Murtazayev Mustafa (born 1882) was an abbot in the mosque. On 6 February 1938, he and several other religious figures were arrested by NKVD of Bakhchysarai for participation in a nationalist counter-revolutionary group and counter-revolutionary terrorist propaganda. Allegedly, he attempted to take Crimea away from the USSR and incorporate it into Türkiye.
It took NKVD six days to issue a verdict for Murtazayev Mustafa — execution. Killed on 4 April 1938, Osman’s great grandfather was rehabilitated on 5 July 1990 as illegally accused and repressed.
And on 18 May 1944, Murtazayev Mustafa’s family, his wife Reikhan and daughters Aishe and Fatma, were deported from Crimea to Asia.
“History repeated… Repressions of 1937-1938, deportation of the Muslims of Crimea and the Caucasus in 1944, denigration and persecution of religious people. All this is a scar passed down from generation to generation. And today, in the 21st century, nothing changes at all…”
Ukrainian human rights organizations issued a statement on yesterday’s sentencing of the four Crimean Tatars. You too can become their voice. Please, write to the Crimean Tatar political prisoners of the Kremlin.
Instructions (find the full instructions and addresses of all political prisoners here):
- Letters must be written in Russian.
- Letters must exclude political subjects since they are read by the authorities before being passed to prisoners.
- Copy by hand or print the sample letter (find below). You can add your home address to maintain communication with Crimean Tatars.
- Don’t forget to mention i). the address of the prison (find below) that can be written in either Russian or in English transcription, ii). the particular addressee’s name and year of birth.
Я пишу пожелать Вам здоровья, терпения и крепкой веры в скорое освобождение! Мы с Вами и о Вас помним!
(Translation from Russian into English: Hello, I want to wish you good health, patience and strong faith that you will soon be freed. We are with us and we remember about you.)
344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1. Сейтумерову, Сейтумеру Шукриевичу, 1988 г.р.[In English: 344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1, Seitumerov, Seitumer Shurkievych, b. 1988 ]
344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1. Сейтумерову, Осману Шукриевичу, 1992 г.р.[In English: 344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1, Seitumerov, Osman Shurkievych, b. 1992 ]
344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1. Сеитмеметову, Рустему Абдурамановичу, 1973 г.р.[In English: 344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1, Seitmemetov, Rustem Abduramanovich, b. 1973 ]
Amet Suleimanov remains for now in house custody in Crimea.
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