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18 years in gulag for Crimean Tatar activist

A court in Rostov-on-Don has sentenced Crimean Tatar activist Ernes Seytosmanov to 18 years in a gulag, claiming links to members of the Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir Party, banned in Russia.

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A court in Rostov-on-Don found Seitosmanov guilty of involvement in the activities of a terrorist organisation and preparations to seize power by force. The defence has announced an appeal.

In February 2022, Russian services conducted a search at his home. Prior to his arrest, the man had helped the families of political prisoners and participated in various social initiatives.

Three years ago, a Russian court sentenced his brother Enwer Seitosmanov to 17 years imprisonment in a maximum security colony.

Today, the Southern District Military Court sent the #CrimeanTatar Ernes Seitosmanov to a strict regime colony for 18 years.

Searches in the house of Ernes Seitosmanov took place several times. His brother, Enver, is already in the colony and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

— Lutfiye Zudiyeva (@zudiyeva) May 24, 2023

Crime against Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatars arrived in Europe with the expansion of the Mongol Empire. After the disintegration of the Golden Horde, they formed the Crimean Khanate, covering most of Crimea, the southern areas of present-day Ukraine and part of Kuban. In 1783, the Crimean Khanate was annexed by the Russian Empire. From this point, a gradual influx of Russian and Ukrainian settlers began. In 1944, almost the entire Tatar population was deported to Uzbekistan. During the fall of the USSR, the gradual return of Tatars to Crimea began. After the outbreak of the Euromaidan protests in 2013, the Tatars unequivocally advocated for Crimea to remain part of Ukraine. Following the annexation of Crimea to Russia in March 2014, more than 9,000 Tatars left the peninsula.

Crimean Tatars after February 2022

On Wednesday, the European Parliament in Brussels hosted a conference on “Crimean Tatars after February 2022”, organised by Polish MEP Anna Fotyga.

“Russian aggression began with the occupation of Crimea and will end with its liberation,” declared MEP Fotyga, who invited representatives of the Ukrainian presidential administration, the Crimean Tatar community, as well as high-ranking EU human rights officials, international experts and diplomats to the EP.

“The Crimean Tatars, after the annexation of Crimea, were the first to become targets of persecution by the Russian occupiers. Russia turned the peninsula into one big prison,” said Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine.

The exhibition, entitled “Stories from Occupied Crimea”, which opened after the event, featured photographs by Ukrainian reporters who covered human rights violations in occupied Crimea and documented the lives of families of political prisoners between 2014 and 2019. For their journalistic activity, the authors of the photographs were banned from entering Crimea and Russia for between 10 and 35 years. Speakers at the launch of the exhibition included Crimean Human Rights Group expert Iryna Sedova and Aziz Umerov, whose sister is a political prisoner.

Seikova stressed that with the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, persecution in Crimea is assuming alarming proportions and this is particularly true of the Crimean Tatars, who pose a particular threat to the Russian authorities by openly criticising the invasion. She pointed out that, as a result, they are not only threatened with administrative penalties, but are also intimidated and tortured and face harsh sentences in falsified criminal cases.

Aziz Umerov reported that his sister is being held in FSB custody in Moscow, completely isolated and deprived of information. “She was detained when she wanted to get to Crimea to help her father who was ill with cancer. She was transported to Moscow like a terrorist, in the light of the cameras. She is only 25 years old, but the Russian terrorist state is trying to ruin her life,” Umerov said while presenting the photos, which were featured on Russian television.

He reported that he had travelled from Kyiv to Brussels to say that Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars could not be broken.

In Crimea, the Russians have imprisoned 227 people for political reasons, 197 of these are Tatars. More than 60 people have died as a result of the occupation. In recent months alone, 30,000 Tatars have left Crimea fleeing mobilisation. Police provocations, searches and intimidation have been used against Tatars, and many have found refuge in Poland.

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