Crimean Tatar leader jailed for eight years after 'sham' trial
‘Akhtem Chiygoz is a prisoner of conscience jailed solely for peacefully exercising his human rights’ - Oksana Pokalchuk
The Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz a should be immediately released, said Amnesty International today, as he was handed an eight-year sentence today following a lengthy trial denounced as a “sham”.
Mr Chiygoz, deputy leader of the Mejlis - the executive-representative body for Crimean Tatars - was arrested in January 2015 and spent 15 months in pre-trial detention. He was then subjected to a sham trial - lasting 13 months - marred by numerous fair-trial violations. He was forced to participate in his trial by video-link and was unable to consult with his lawyer in private.
Chiygoz was eventually found guilty of having organised “mass disturbances” linked to clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian supporters that led to the death of two people on 26 February 2014. However, even under the definition in the Russian Criminal Code under which Chiygoz has been prosecuted and convicted, the event did not amount to “mass disturbances”.
After the occupation of Crimea in February-March 2014, Chiygoz become an outspoken strident critic of the de facto Russian authorities. He was arrested in January 2015.
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International’s Ukraine Director, said:
“Akhtem Chiygoz is a prisoner of conscience jailed solely for peacefully exercising his human rights, and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
“The Russian occupying authorities have underlined their repression in Crimea by throwing behind bars a man who, according to eyewitness accounts and video footage, had attempted to keep the crowds apart to prevent violence.
“The unfair trial of Akhtem Chiygoz tops a wave of spurious and demonstrably false criminal and administrative cases instigated by the occupying Russian authorities against members of the Crimean Tatar community.
“It epitomises the ongoing persecution of these activists whose only ‘crime’ is to vocally oppose Crimea’s annexation by Russia.”
Tatars’ representative body banned
Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Mejlis as an “extremist organisation” in September 2016. The ruling made all its members and supporters from local organisations, the most active and vocal part of Crimean Tatar community, susceptible to criminal prosecution as “extremists”. The Turkic-speaking Tatars make up some 12% of Crimea’s population.