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Server Karametov, 76 year old Crimean Tatar, after his arbitrary arrest in August 2017. © 2017 Private

Just when you think the situation cannot get any worse for Crimean Tatars in Crimea, it does.

Yesterday, a court in Simferopol sentenced Server Karametov, a 76-year old Crimean Tatar, to 10 days in jail for “disobeying police orders” while holding a peaceful, single-person picket.

On August 8, 2017, Karametov, determined but in frail health, stood in front of the Crimea Supreme Court building in Simferopol, holding a sign: “Putin, our children are not terrorists.” He was protesting the ongoing trial of Akhtem Chiygoz, a Crimean Tatar leader prosecuted on bogus charges related to a public protest in 2014, during the initial weeks of Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

Three police officers approached Karametov and ordered him to follow them. When he insisted on remaining, they grabbed him and forcibly led him away. Emil Kurbedinov, Karametov’s lawyer, said he has been diagnosed with advanced Parkinson’s disease, which can be accompanied by such symptoms as tremors and involuntary movements. These uncontrolled movements may have been misunderstood by the police, Kurbedinov said. But on August 9, a judge refused to order a medical exam for Karametov and swiftly sentenced this older man with a disability to prison.

In a separate hearing the day before, the court fined Karametov for violating the rules for organizing a public gathering. Russian law allows single-person pickets, but the authorities regularly punish protesters participating in “unsanctioned” one-person pickets.

Following Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Russian authorities have created a pervasive climate of fear and repression in Crimea. They have imprisoned, attacked, forcibly disappeared, intimidated, or exiled people who have peacefully opposed or criticized their actions, targeting  Crimean Tatars in particular. Authorities banned their leaders from Crimea, harassed and ultimately banned their representative body, Mejlis, imprisoned Crimean Tatar activists on trumped up charges and shut down Crimean Tatar media outlets.

Server Karametov’s arbitrary arrest for the peaceful exercise of basic rights and his unjustified jailing are yet another step in this ruthless harassment campaign – a campaign that Russia needs to end.

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