‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Ruslan Abdurakhmanov, convicted of participating in an illegal armed group, is a political prisoner

10 February 2023

Ruslan Abdurakhmanov was sentenced to five years in a strict regime penal colony for involvement in the Chelebidzhikhan Volunteer Battalion.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ a human rights project, considers Ruslan Abdurakhmanov, a Crimean Tatar from the Kherson region, a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. His criminal prosecution for participation in an illegal armed group is on account of his political views, citizenship, and ethnicity. During Ruslan Abdurakhmanov’s criminal prosecution his right to fair trial was grossly violated and the criminal case itself was based on fabricated evidence.

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

What were the charges against Ruslan Abdurakhmanov?

We do not know exactly when and under what circumstances law enforcement officers detained Ruslan Abdurakhmanov.

According to investigators, on 20 April 2022 Abdurakhmanov tried to enter Crimea from Kherson region but the only identifying document he had on him was a military ID card of the Ukrainian armed forces. It was then, investigators claim, that he was detained and charged with participation in an illegal armed group (Article 208, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The investigators claim that in February 2016 Abdurakhmanov joined the volunteer battalion named after Noman Chelebidzhikhan, where he allegedly was engaged in guard duties, inspecting vehicles and preparing firewood.

Abdurakhmanov told human rights activists in a letter about his abduction, torture and intimidation. According to him, in April 2022, armed men in balaclavas and camouflage with DNR and Russian badges broke into his house in occupied Kherson region. After a search, they took him, with a bag over his head, to the building of the vocational school in Genichesk. There, Abdurakhmanov was tortured with electric shocks, beaten and humiliated, and forced to incriminate himself.

On 9 August 2022, Kyiv district court in Simferopol sentenced him to five years in a strict regime colony.

Why do we consider him a political prisoner?

The case against Abdurakhmanov is built almost entirely on his confessions and on witness statements. We know the name of only one witness, the identity of the other witnesses is classified. The witness whose identity we know has already testified repeatedly in cases against other Crimean Tatars. In fact, in a whole series of such prosecutions, investigators do nothing more than change the names of the accused in the witness testimonies.

We believe that Abdurakhmanov’s participation in the Chelebidzhikhan battalion has not been not proven. Moreover, we believe that the very fact of participation in this battalion does not constitute a crime.

Entrepreneur Lenur Islyamov announced the creation of the Chelebidzhikhan battalion in September 2015 at a press conference in Kyiv. At the same time, Ukrainian MPs Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov announced the beginning of a civil blockade of Crimea. Participants in the battalion carried out inspections of goods at the ‘border’ with Crimea. Over the next two months, the Ukrainian government made a series of decisions prohibiting transfers of goods and services from and to Crimea, with the exception of humanitarian goods. Since January 2016, members of the battalion, or to be more precise, of the civil society organisation Asker created on its basis, carried out joint patrols with the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The battalion has never taken part in military action.

We consider that although the creation of this battalion by civil society actors was not enshrined in law, its activities cannot be considered illegal. Proof of this is the joint patrolling of the border with the Ukrainian security forces. At the same time, it is not the battalion’s activities that are obviously contrary to Russia’s interests, but 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 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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