Russian occupiers continue to persecute Crimean Tatars: Ukraine condemns latest detentions

Crimean Tatars
Canan Sarıtepe
27 October 2021, 13:23
Canan Sarıtepe
27 October 2021, 13:23

Crimean Tatar lawyer Edem Semedlyaev and 21 others were detained by Russian occupation enforcement bodies on Monday while defending rights of political prisoners in Crimea. The occupiers also forced the lawyers to undress inappropriately.

Semedlyaev is one of the few lawyers who continue to risk working on politically sensitive cases in Crimea. The so-called court released him the next day, on October 26, pending review of the charges.

22 Crimean Tatars were detained

The lawyer arrived at the police station in Simferopol (Aqmescit) on Monday afternoon, to provide legal representation for Crimean Tatars detained earlier that day. The Crimean Tatars were detained outside a military court building, where they arrived to observe an appeal hearing in one of the many false “terrorism” cases brought against Crimean Tatars since Russia occupied the peninsula in 2014.

Due to quarantine restrictions, the judge allowed only five into the courtroom, while the rest remained outside. Although those outside complied with police orders to maintain the required distance apart and wear masks, after 20 minutes the National Guard arrived and detained 21 men, including several journalists. They took them to the police station and charged them with violating quarantine restrictions.

Occupiers ordered lawyers to strip naked

Semedlyaev asked an officer from the Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism department not to take away one of the detainees, to whom he wanted to provide legal counsel when he was finished with his current client. The officer refused, and Semedlyaev started an audio recording on his phone. The officer ordered Semedlyaev to stop recording and then suddenly ordered him and another lawyer present at the police station to fully undress, allegedly to see if they had any “extremist tattoos.” 

Semedlyaev stated that he would not do so, both because it is against his Muslim faith, and because he was there in his capacity as a lawyer, and had been detained while he was providing legal assistance. He did agree to empty out his pockets and to allow a visual inspection. He was arrested on two counts of disobeying a police officer, an administrative offence punishable by a fine and up to 15 days in jail. He spent the night in a holding cell. He appeared before a court this evening and was released pending review of the charges.

Ukraine condemns the move

Office of the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has condemned the detention of 22 Crimean Tatars, including 3 journalists and a lawyer.

"Russian law enforcement officers illegally detained Crimean Tatar activists and their lawyer in front of the so-called Crimean Garrison Military Court building. The occupying authorities are preventing the professional activities of journalists and lawyers,” it said in a statement.