Ruslan Ablyakimov: “Case of 26 February” Trial Concludes in Crimea [OVD-Info]

posted 28 May 2018, 06:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 May 2018, 07:13 ]
14 May 2018

By Ruslan Ablyakimov, for OVD-Info

Source: OVD-Info

On 14 May, in the Simferopol Central District Court, the final words were heard from the defendants in the “Case of 26 February.” The prosecutor asked for five-year suspended sentences plus three years’ probation for Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhi and, for Eskender Kantemirov, Arsen Yunusov, and Eskender Emirvaliev, a suspended sentence of three-and-a-half years plus three years’ probation.

On 26 February 2014, several thousand people gathered next to the Crimean Upper Rada. Two rallies were organized by the walls of the Crimean parliament: the first by the Russian Unity party; the second by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. The Crimean Tatars were trying to prevent the session of the Upper Rada being held at which they might approve a decision to begin the process of Crimea joining the Russian Federation. Clashes occurred between participants in the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian rallies, and two people died and thirty were injured as a result of the crush that arose. The Upper Rada’s session was postponed. In early 2015, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case regarding the riots during the 26 February rally.

The first person charged in the “Case of 26 February” was Akhtem Chiigoz, deputy chair of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. He was arrested on 29 January 2015 and charged with organizing riots. Subsequently, the security forces carried out several arrests on charges of participating in riots. Eskender Nebiyev, a cameraman for the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR, spent two months on remand, and on the guarantee of Eskender Bilyalov, advisor to the presidential representative in Crimea, the pre-trial detention was changed to a written undertaking not to leave. Nebiev was given a two-year suspended sentence. The activist Talyat Yunusov spent about two months in the Simferopol pre-trial detention centre and was released on Bilyalov’s guarantee. Yunusov was given a suspended sentence of three-and-a-half years. Nebiev and Yunusov admitted their guilt and agreed to plea bargain. Akhtem Chiigoz was sentenced to eight years in a prison colony but soon after was pardoned and deported from Russia.

Some participants in the pro-Russian rally are figuring in the case as witnesses; not one of them has ended up on the defendants’ bench.

Ali Asanov, an activist and father of four, was arrested on 15 April 2015. He was in remanded in custody on 17 April 2015, and on 6 April 2017, was moved to house arrest. A native of Grushevka in Sudakovsky district, Mustafa Degermendzhi was arrested on 7 May 2015, in his native village. Up until 6 April 2017, he was held on remand; after that, he, like Ali Asanov, was put under house arrest. Mustafa is the son of a figure in the so-called “Vedzhie Kashka case,” Bekir Degermendzhi, who was arrested on 23 November 2017. Simferopol resident Eskender Kantemirov was arrested on 7 February 2015. Grushevka resident Eskender Emirvaliev, who previously had worked at a gas station, was arrested on 18 February 2015. Arsen Yunusov, a resident of Yastrebovka in Crimea’s Krasnogvardeisky district, was arrested on 11 March 2015. At the present time, Kantemirov, Emirvaliev, and Yunusov are under a written undertaking not to leave. Like Eskender Nebiev and Talyat Yunusov, having spent two months in pre-trial detention, they were released under the guarantee of Eskender Bilyalov, advisor to the presidential representative in Crimea.

The defendants’ lawyers note that there have been more than a hundred hearings in this case, and for many of them this is a record. None of them ever suspected that this case would drag out this way.

Eskender Emirvaliev: “Well, esteemed court, what can I say? You are probably not going to hear anything new from me. Once again I want to say that if Comrade Shlyagin (a victim whose testimony is key in the case. Shlyagin was questioned within the framework of the preliminary investigation; however, he refused to take part in the legal proceeding itself and asked that they refer to the testimony he gave during the investigation — OVD-Info) had showed up in court, then he and I would probably have found a common language. As it is, I am counting on the court’s fair decision.”

Arsen Yunusov: “I have nothing to say.”

Eskender Kantemirov: “Everything I wanted to say I said in the arguments. There’s nothing to add.”

Ali Asanov: “What can I say? In principle, it’s all been said. There’s no reason to expect anything new, in principle. The only thing I want is to thank the people who have supported me all these three years, both physically and morally. All the rest is for the court to decide.”

Mustafa Degermendzhi: “Yes, your honour, indeed, after three years I feel like expressing separate thanks to the people who have come to support us. As for the criminal case, overall it can be characterized in a few words. I will quote [Pavel] Nikel. That’s the investigator who ran our case during the investigation stage (at present Pavel Nikel is employed by the Novosibirsk Region Investigative Committee Administration—OVD-Info).

To my question as to why only Crimean Tatars are being tried in this criminal case, he said this apparently simple thing, which perfectly characterizes this criminal case. To my question, he replied: “Victors don’t get tried.” There’s nothing much to add to his words here. This is a very capacious and voluminous sentence that allows us to understand as a whole what has been going on here all these three years. I think everyone has long since understood that it’s not criminals being tried here, because I’m certain that, like myself, many think that no one here committed any particular crime. Yes, we went out that day to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but circumstances came together in such a way that now we are in Russia. There’s no getting away from that, though. As Comrade Putin said in his inauguration speech, and as Aksenov said about this more than once: “It’s long past time to forget all the moments from early 2014. Everyone has moved on.” I don’t understand why this moment has dragged on like this here. Vladimir Vladimirovich pardoned our alleged organizer (meaning Akhtem Chiigoz—OVD-Info) long ago, and therefore, to be honest, to add to what’s already been said, we’ve already said lots of all kinds of things. Some we paid attention to, some we didn’t, we’ve had all kinds. All that’s left is to hope for a fair decision from the court, but above all for Allah’s help. I have nothing more to add.”

The court’s decision will be announced on 4 June at eleven o’clock.

Translated by Marian Schwartz