• Press Release

Crimea: Crimean Tatar leader sentenced to eight years in penal colony following sham trial

Akhtem Chiygoz, a Crimean Tatar leader should be immediately released, said Amnesty International today as he was handed an eight-year sentence following a 13 month long sham trial.

“The unfair trial of Akhtem Chiygoz tops a wave of spurious and demonstrably false criminal and administrative cases instigated by the occupying Russian authorities against members of the Crimean Tatar community. It epitomizes the ongoing persecution of these activists whose only ‘crime’ is to vocally oppose Crimea’s annexation by Russia,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, Director for Amnesty International in Ukraine.

The unfair trial of Akhtem Chiygoz tops a wave of spurious and demonstrably false criminal and administrative cases instigated by the occupying Russian authorities against members of the Crimean Tatar community.
Oksana Pokalchuk, Director for Amnesty International in Ukraine

Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy leader of the Mejlis – the executive-representative body for Crimean Tatars outlawed in Russia as “extremist” – was arrested in January 2015 and spent 15 months in pre-trial detention. Then he was subjected to a sham trial marred by numerous violations. For instance, he was forced to participate in his trial by video link and was therefore unable to consult with his lawyer in private. He was found guilty of having organized “mass disturbances” linked to clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian supporters that led to the death of two people on 26 February 2014.

“The Russian occupying authorities have underlined their repression in Crimea by throwing behind bars a man who, according to eyewitness accounts and video footage, had attempted to keep the crowds apart to prevent violence,” said Oksana Pokalchuk.

Notably, even under the definition in the Russian Criminal Code under which Akhtem Chiygoz has been prosecuted and convicted the event did not amount to “mass disturbances”.

“Akhtem Chiygoz is a prisoner of conscience jailed solely for peacefully exercising his human rights, and should be released immediately and unconditionally.”  

Background

After the occupation of Crimea in February-March 2014, Chiygoz become a strident critic of the de facto Russian authorities. He was arrested in January 2015.

Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Mejlis as an “extremist organization” in September 2016. The ruling made all its members and supporters from local organizations, the most active and vocal part of Crimean Tatar community, susceptible to criminal prosecution as “extremists”.