Russia has convicted another Crimean Tatar activist of violating the law with his pro-Ukraine activism in the annexed peninsula.
On September 27, a district court in the Crimean capital of Simferopol sentenced Ilmi Umerov, deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis assembly, to two years in a penal colony on separatism charges.
Photo credit: Nataliya Gumenyuk/HROMADSKE
Prosecutors had only requested a three-year suspended sentence and a ban on “public activity” for Umerov, making the ruling unexpectedly harsh. It also poses serious risks for the Tatar leader's health. Umerov suffers from Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and heart issues — illnesses for which he may not receive proper care in prison.
The Russian authorities based the charges against Umerov on his March 2016 appearance on ATR, a Ukrainian television channel that broadcasts in the Crimean Tatar language. During the broadcast in question, Umerov stated that Russia should withdraw from Crimea and from the Donbas, a region in Ukraine’s east currently occupied by Russia-backed separatists.
An expert from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) certified that Umerov’s statements on the television channel constituted separatism. However, during the trial, it became clear that the FSB expert had not analyzed Umerov’s original statement in Crimean Tatar, but a loose translation provided by the investigators.
Since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, many Crimean Tatars have faced persecution for their opposition to the takeover. But Ilmi Umerov was among the most outspoken activists. Shortly after the annexation, he resigned from the Crimean Mejlis because he did not agree with the terms imposed upon him by the new authorities. He also refused to swear allegiance to Russia.
Two months after Umerov’s March 2016 television appearance, the FSB searched his home and subsequently initiated a criminal case against him.
In July 2016, Umerov unsuccessfully attempted to appeal his criminal prosecution in court. Afterwards, the FSB demanded that the court order Umerov to undergo a psychological examination. When the Crimean Tatar leader fell ill during a subsequent hearing, he was illegally transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Umerov’s lawyer called this deliberate abuse of authority by the FSB.
The day before he was sentenced, Umerov said that he would only be satisfied with an acquittal and promised to appeal any other decision with the European Court of Human Rights.
Earlier this month, a Russian-court in Crimea sentenced another Mejlis deputy chairman, Akhtem Chiygoz, to eight years in prison for allegedly instigating mass unrest during the annexation of Crimea. As in the case of Umerov, Chiygoz’s trial was also marked by serious flaws, including weak evidence and so-called “secret witnesses.”
READ MORE: The Story of Ilmi Umerov And His Lawyers