In today’s Crimea, to be a member of the Crimean Tatar community is to be a target for the authorities.
In the early hours of September 4, Russia’s security services raided the house of Nariman Dzhelyal, a deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar representative body, Mejlis.
Dzhelyal is one of the few Crimean Tatar leaders remaining in Crimea, as a result of Russia’s ruthless and seemingly endless persecution campaign against Crimean Tatars.
Authorities detained Dzhelyal after searching his home. For 24 hours, he was held without water, food, or access to a lawyer, in handcuffs and with a bag over his head.
Dzhelyal’s lawyer told me that when she was finally allowed to see him the day after his arrest Dzhelyal was “morally and physically exhausted.” Investigators pressured and threatened Dzhelyal during interrogations, she said, trying to “break” him.
Dzhelyal had just returned from Kyiv, where he attended an international summit, the Crimea Platform. International organizations and diplomats from 45 countries participated in the summit, which aimed to put Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014, back on the international agenda and draw attention to the dire human rights situation there.
Dzhelyal is being held allegedly on suspicion of “aiding sabotage” in a criminal investigation into recent damage to a gas pipeline which supplied a Russian military base near the Crimean city of Simferopol. Prior to Dzhelyal’s arrest, the authorities detained four other Crimean Tatars, also in connection with the case.
Yesterday, a court in Simferopol ordered Dzhelyal and two other men remanded in custody for two months.
In a drive to portray politically active Crimean Tatars as “extremists” and “terrorists” and remove any trace of dissent from the peninsula, Russian authorities have exiled or criminally prosecuted Crimean Tatar leaders with blatant disregard for due process, harassed and ultimately banned their representative body, and forced Crimean Tatar media outlets to close. Crimean Tatars have been victims of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill-treatment in custody. Dozens have been slammed with bogus criminal charges or horrendous and unjust prison terms.
Russian authorities need to immediately release Nariman Dzhelyal and others held on politically motivated charges. This lawlessness needs to stop.