Lawyer detained in Crimea

<< No 5 (238), 6 February 2017 >>

• FSB officers detain Nikolai Polozov in Simferopol •

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in Crimea have detained prominent lawyer Nikolai Polozov.A Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL) [r] journalist reported that six FSB officers arrested the lawyer at a hotel in Simferopol. He was taken to a police station for questioning as a witness in the trial of Ilmi Umerov, deputy leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or council, who is being defended by Polozov.

Polozov said that the FSB officers’ actions qualify as a kidnapping, not as an effort to question him. The Radio Svoboda reporter stated that the lawyer did not respond to the officers’ questions.

The Russian authorities in Crimea have accused 59-year-old Umerov of inciting violations of Russia’s territorial integrity. A criminal investigation was initiated against him after he spoke on television about the annexation of Crimea and events in the Donbass region.

Ilmi Umerov said on Facebook that the Crimean authorities wanted to bring him to trial with a new wording of the accusation against him, and noted that his meeting with the FSB investigator was scheduled for Friday 27 January.

In the course of the investigation Ilmi Umerov was transferred to a psychiatric hospital for an expert assessment. The court case resumed on Umerov’s release from hospital. On 31 December Umerov announced that he intended to appeal against being put on the register of “terrorists and extremists” who are active on Russian territory.

At the initiative of the infamous Russian prosecutor general for Crimea, Ms Poklonskaya, the peninsula’s Supreme Court declared the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people an “extremist organisation”. It proved impossible to challenge this position in the Russian Federation’s Supreme Court.

Human rights defenders consider this decision to be unjust and deeply flawed. In particular, they highlighted during the court session that “the Mejlis is a body for democratic representation, not a non-governmental organisation, that it is not possible for a lawsuit to be brought to declare it extremist, and that its activities cannot be considered extremist”.

Senior lawyer for Memorial Human Rights Centre [r], Kirill Koroteev, stressed [r]: “In terms of the implications, membership of an extremist organisation is a crime under Russian law. The 33 members of the Mejlis are at risk, and the local authorities may extend harassment to members of regional and local mejlises, in which case the crackdown would affect hundreds of people”.

Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 after a referendum which was monitored by Russian forces. The results of the vote have not been recognised by the majority of the countries of the world, and the European Union and the USA have enacted economic sanctions against Russia.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

HRO.org  25 January 2017

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