Legal Case of the Week: Ruslan Zeytullayev

posted 1 May 2017, 08:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 May 2017, 08:54 ]
On 26 April 2017 a court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Ruslan Zeytullayev, a Crimean Tatar, to 12 years in prison for establishing a cell of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea. As RFE/RL reports, "Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Russia, which seized control of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has prosecuted many opponents of the takeover -- including members of the Muslim Crimean Tatar community -- on what rights groups say are false charges." Memorial Human Rights Centre has repeatedly stated that in its view membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir should not be grounds for a criminal prosecution. Memorial Human Rights Centre argues that Hizb ut-Tahrir has not taken part in any terrorist activities and is legally active as a political party in many jurisdictions. 

Ruslan Zeytullayev was convicted and sentenced to 12-years in prison after a retrial that took place at the request of prosecutors who argued that an earlier sentence, handed down in September 2016 (when Zeytullayev and three other Crimean Tatars were given sentences from 5 to 7 years) had been too lenient. RFE/RL notes that "Rights activists say Crimean Tatars have been arrested, abducted, and in some cases killed in a campaign to punish the group for largely opposing the takeover and neutralize it as a potential political and social force. Crimean Tatar self-government organizations have been declared illegal."

Halya Coynash, writing on the website Human Rights in Ukraine, has commented:

"The second time around, Russian judges have done what they’re told and sentenced Crimean Tatar political prisoner Ruslan Zeytullaev to 12 years’ maximum security. The sentence was expected, not because there were any grounds to the charges against the 31-year-old father of three, but because Russia’s FSB needed an ‘organizer’ for its paperwork to seem ‘in order’. The retrial and this sentence are especially chilling since there are three other men charged under the same type of quota, and they face even harsher sentences.

"The only positive information is that Zeytullaev announced in court on April 26 that he would be ending his hunger strike, begun 22 days ago. He notes that he has been asked to stop it by his family and friends, by prominent Crimean Tatars (including Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Ilmi Umerov) and many other people concerned for his health. During those 22 days, he adds, he sent 14 statements to state and law enforcement bodies, not one of which received any response. [...]

"It is a tragedy that the world has stood by and watched Russia (and Uzbekistan) sentence men en masse for no more than allegedly holding views that diverge from those of the officially. The situation in Russian-occupied Crimea is especially acute, and the renowned Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre rightly declared all four men political prisoners well before the trial ended. There can be no chance of a ‘fair trial’, given that Russia has no right to apply its legislation on territory it is illegally occupying, and Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine." 

Halya Coynash urges that people show their support for Ruslan Zeytullayev by writing to him. For more information, see her post on Human Rights in Ukraine.

Photo of Ruslan Zeytullayev: Human Rights in Ukraine

'Russian Court Sentences Crimean Tatar To 12 Years In Prison,' RFE/RL, 26 April 2017
Halya Coynash, 'Crimean Tatar Ruslan Zeytullaev gets 12-year sentence to meet Russian FSB quota,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 26 April 2017
'Прокурор добавил,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 26 April 2017