News of the Day: 12 January 2021

RFE/RL: Another group of Crimean Tatars has been sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of being members of a banned Islamic group and plotting to seize power in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The Southern Military Regional Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on January 12 sentenced Enver Omerov to 18 years, Ayder Dzhepparov to 17 years, and Riza Omerov to 13 years in prison. The three men, who were arrested in June 2019, were found guilty of plotting to forcibly seize power in Crimea as members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that is banned in Russia, but is legal in Ukraine. Enver Omerov was also found guilty of organizing the activities of a terrorist group.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A Russian court has sentenced three Crimean Tatars, including a father and son,  to horrific terms of imprisonment without any crime, on the basis of discussions about their Muslim faith and political subjects, including Russia’s persecution of  Muslims.  This was claimed to have been “anti-Russian” and ‘anti-constitutional’.  With these sentences, Russia wants to imprison three members of one family to 44.5 years’ imprisonment, with Fatma Ismailova, the daughter, wife and sister of three victims, now facing administrative charges for having asked permission in court to touch her father, Enver Omerov’s, hand.  Any doubts that Russia is targeting Crimean Tatars with such persecution were dispelled during the night before the sentencing on 12 January when only Crimean Tatars were stopped from trying to cross the Crimean Bridge in order to be present outside the court in Rostov.  Many Crimean Tatars had anticipated such repressive moves and had travelled to Rostov in advance, with around 50 gathering outside the court with T-shirts showing photos of the men and the words “No to state terror!” and “Stop the repression of families!”.  A further 150 people gathered outside the Russian-controlled Crimean Garrison Military Court, with police officers demanding to see their documents and openly photographing them.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Update   Russian officials eventually detained around 120 Crimean Tatars, with all of them prevented from travelling on until the morning of 12 January, thus too late to reach the sentencing of Enver Omerov, his son Riza and Aider Dzhapparov. Late on Monday evening, at least 17 vehicles and 59 Crimean Tatars were stopped at the entry to the Crimean Bridge as they tried to get to Rostov in Russia for the sentencing on 12 January of three recognized political prisoners.  Among those detained were several veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement, men in their sixties.  There were no valid grounds for stopping any of the people, yet the traffic police took driving licences and car documents away, and also photographed passports, an act of overt intimidation.  According to one of the activists, Dilyaver Abduramanov, they were told at one point that this was “an operation for processing individuals of eastern nationality”.  This appalling admission of racial profiling, it should be stressed, was made by representatives of the Russian occupation regime to Crimean Tatars in the latter’s own homeland.  One of the veterans, Usein Velikhayev noted that everybody was being let through, except Crimean Tatars. He asked an FSB officer present why they were only stopping Crimean Tatars, and was told they could not comment.  “This is a kind of Crimean Tatar reservation”, Velikhayev added. The events only confirmed the bitter comparison with earlier Russian persecution of Crimean Tatars made in their powerful final addresses on 11 January by the three political prisoners, Enver Omerov; his son Riza Omerov and Aider Dzhapparov.

The Moscow Times: Russian artist and LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova has been hit with pornography charges a fourth time over artwork aimed at ending stigmas around the female anatomy, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported Tuesday.  Tsvetkova, 27, was first charged with distributing pornography online in June 2020 after sharing artwork of vulvas on the “Vagina Monologues” social media page she operates. The criminal charges carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison. The Investigative Committee in the Khabarovsk region where Tsvetkova lives brought the latest charges after three prior pornography charges related to investigations by federal police and investigators, her mother Anna Khodyreva told Novaya Gazeta.

RAPSI: Alexey Navalny has filed a cassation appeal against a ruling on the recovery of 3.3 million rubles (about $45,000 at the current exchange rate) of legal expenses from him in a defamation dispute with the Crimean meat processing plant Druzhba Narodov, according to the Moscow District Commercial Court’s records. The applicant has challenged the Moscow Commercial Court’s ruling of September 1 and an appeals ruling of December 14, 2021. In March 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed Navalny’s motion to reconsider a ruling in his defamation dispute with Druzhba Narodov ordering the blogger to remove and refute information on the enterprise he had distributed. 

RAPSI: The Moscow City Court on Tuesday upheld sentence in a case against the New Greatness (“Novoe Velichie”) extremist movement, a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom. The court also corrected technical errors in the sentence delivered by Moscow’s Lyublinsky District Court as had been requested by prosecutors. On August 6, 2020, Dmitry Poletayev, Maxim Roshchin, Maria Dubovik and Anna Pavlikova received 6, 6.5, 6 and 4 years of suspended sentence respectively. The movement’s alleged leader Ruslan Kostylenkov was ordered to serve 7 years in penal colony, Vyacheslav Kryukov and Petr Karamzin were imprisoned for 6.5 and 6 years in jail respectively.

The Guardian: A Swedish court has sentenced a man and a woman to 10 and eight years in prison respectively for attempted murder and accessory to attempted murder in a hammer attack on a blogger and critic of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. The pair, who were not named by the Gavle district court, assaulted Tumso Abdurakhmanov on 26 February 2020 in his home in Gavle, 106 miles (170km) north of Stockholm. In a statement, the court said the assault was planned and added that “the victim and the perpetrator had no relationship to each other”. Abdurakhmanov was assaulted with a hammer by a man who told the Chechen he came from Moscow, the Swedish news agency TT said. He survived the attack.

RFE/RL: Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who last year survived a poison attack he says was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, has said that Russia’s prison authority has asked a court to switch his suspended prison sentence to jail time. “Putin is so enraged that I survived the poisoning that he ordered the FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service) to demand that the court changes my suspended sentence into actual time in jail,” Navalny tweeted on January 12. “This despite the fact that my suspended sentence ended on December 30,” he said in the message that also contained the screenshot of an official document of the FSIN’s motion registered at a Moscow court. According to the website of Moscow’s Simonov District Court, the move to change Navalny’s suspended sentence had been registered on January 11.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court on January 12 slightly reduced prison terms handed to two men convicted in the high-profile case of the so-called New Greatness movement. The court reduced the seven-year prison term of Ruslan Kostylenkov by three months, and the 6 1/2-year prison term of Pyotr Karamzin by two months. The six-year prison term of Ruslan Kostylenkov, as well as suspended prison terms for Anna Pavlikova, Maksim Roshchin, Maria Dubovik, and Dmitry Poletayev were upheld at the hearing. The men and women reiterated their not-guilty pleas saying that the case against them was groundless as there were no victims and no damages inflicted either to individuals or to the state. They were arrested in 2018 and charged with creating an extremist group with the intention of overthrowing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. Critics say the case against them was fabricated by Russia’s security services. The rights group Memorial describes the seven as political prisoners.

RFE/RL: Russia’s telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor has drawn up its first eight administrative protocols — all against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — for violating the country’s controversial foreign agents law. Roskomnadzor said in a statement on its website on January 12 that the offenses are “for noncompliance by the media performing the functions of a foreign agent with the requirements of the law on labeling information disseminated by them.” The protocols target four of RFE/RL’s Russian-language projects — its main service for Russia, Radio Liberty; the Current Time TV and digital network; and Siberia.Reality and Idel.Reality, two regional sites delivering local news and information to audiences in Siberia and the Volga-Urals. “The drawn-up protocols will be sent to the magistrate’s court within three working days to make decisions on the imposition of administrative fines,” Roskomnadzor said. RFE/RL President Ted Lipien called the move “a dramatic escalation” and reaffirmed the broadcaster’s determination to fulfill its mission toward its audiences in Russia and elsewhere.

The Moscow Times: Russian eco-activists will end more than two years of protests against a controversial garbage dump that would have seen tons of waste shipped from Moscow to northern Russia after its construction was halted. Russians nationwide have protested against plans to ship Moscow’s trash to remote regions since fall 2018 over environmental concerns, with a massive planned landfill at the abandoned Shiyes train station becoming the main protest battleground. Courts in the Arkhangelsk region where Shiyes is located eventually ruled that the landfill construction is illegal and ordered the site to be returned to its previous state.

RFE/RL: In the early hours of January 13, 1991, hundreds of Lithuanians headed to the TV tower in Vilnius, where they would make a stand against Soviet troops deployed to crush the Baltic state’s bid to reclaim independence. More than a dozen died, and hundreds were wounded. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communist satellite regimes in Eastern Europe made it clear that Moscow’s power was waning, and the Soviet Union would in fact dissolve by the end of 1991. Months before that — but only after the Vilnius bloodshed in January — Moscow would recognize the independence of the Baltic nations. Lithuania has designated January 13 as Freedom Defenders Day, paying tribute to the unarmed civilians who stood down Soviet forces in Vilnius.

RAPSI: A bill on the non-pecuniary damage award for illegal detention of a person for up to 48 hours has been submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The bill’s author is the State Duma lawmaker Natalya Kostenko.  She believes that even brief restriction of liberty is intervention with the freedom and inviolability of person.

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