‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Dilyaver Gafarov, a Crimean resident convicted on charges of participating in a volunteer battalion, is a political prisoner

31 January 2023

Dilyaver Gafarov has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ a human rights project, considers Crimean resident Dilyaver Gafarov a political prisoner in line with international standards. Gafarov’s criminal prosecution for participation in an illegal armed group is based on his political views, citizenship and ethnicity. Gafarov’s criminal prosecution was based on falsified evidence of the alleged crime. His right to a fair trial has been flagrantly violated in the course of his prosecution.

We demand the immediate release of Dilyaver Gafarov and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

Who is Dilyaver Gafarov and what are the charges against him?

Dilyaver Gafarov, a hairdresser from Crimea, was one of the first to be prosecuted for taking part ‘on the territory of a foreign state in an armed group, not provided for by the legislation of the given state, for purposes contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation’ (Article 208, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) on account of his involvement in the Crimean Tatar battalion named after Noman Chelebidzhikhan. Now there are dozens of people in custody or convicted for participation in this organisation.

The Investigative Committee claims that in 2016 Gafarov decided to join an illegal armed group and moved to mainland Ukraine for this purpose. Dilyaver himself says that he went to Kiev to work as a hairdresser for a Crimean Tatar television channel, rented an apartment there, and got married.

In February 2018, together with his wife, he returned to Crimea, and in October he was arrested and remanded in custody.

On 28 August 2019, Gafarov was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment  in a strict regime penal colony. On appeal, this sentence was upheld.

Why do we consider Dilyaver Gafarov a political prisoner?

The case against Gafarov was built almost entirely on the testimony of witnesses. The identity of one witness was classified, another witness was held on remand on similar charges and had made a plea bargain with the investigation, while three others had earlier allegedly voluntarily refused to participate in the battalion and had surrendered to Russian security forces. Subsequently, all these individuals repeatedly testified against Crimean Tatars accused of participating in the Chelebidzhikhan battalion, repeating each time the same information. Only the names of the accused changed.

Having studied the materials of the case, we concluded there was no evidence that Gafarov had in fact joined the battalion or served in it. Moreover, we believe that participation in the Chelebidzhikhan battalion does not constitute a crime.

It was the entrepreneur Lenur Islyamov who announced the creation of the battalion at a September 2015 press conference in Kyiv. At the same time, two members of the Ukrainian parliament, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, announced the beginning of a civil blockade of Crimea. Participants in the battalion checked goods crossing the border with Crimea. Over the next two months, the Ukrainian government decided to ban shipments of goods and services from and to Crimea, except for humanitarian goods. Since January 2016, members of the battalion, or to be more precise, the public association Asker which was founded on its basis, conducted joint patrols with the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The battalion never took part in any military action.

We believe that despite the fact that the creation of this battalion named after Chelebidzhikhan was not enshrined in law, its activities cannot be considered illegal. Proof of this is the battalion’s participation in border patrols with Ukrainian security forces. At the same time, we believe Russia’s interests are contradicted not by the activities of the battalion, but by the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Further information about this case and the position of the human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ is available on our website.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is also available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can write a letter Dilyaver Gafarov at the following address: 

In Russian: 357000, Ставропольский край, с. Кочубеевское, ФКУ ИК-1 УФСИН России по Ставропольскому краю, Гафарову Диляверу Алимовичу, 1996 г. р. 

In English: Dilyaver Alimovich Gafarov (born 1996), Penal Colony No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for Stavropol Region, Kochibeevskoe, Stavropol Region, 357000, Russia.

You can also send electronic mail to Dilyaver Gafarov via the Zonatelkom service.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. For more information about donating, see our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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