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Crimea: Prominent critic of Russian occupation sentenced to two years in penal colony

    September 27, 2017

    Today’s conviction of Ilmi Umerov, a prominent critic of the Russian occupation and leader of the Crimean Tatar people, is the latest encroachment on fundamental rights and freedoms on the peninsula, and must be immediately quashed, said Amnesty International. Ilmi Umerov was sentenced by a de facto court in Crimea this morning to two years in a penal colony.

    Last week, the same court handed Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena a two and a half year suspended prison sentence. Both men stood accused of threatening territorial integrity of the Russian Federation on account of their public opposition to the Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea.

    “The sentencing of Ilmi Umerov, who is 60 and has Parkinson’s disease, marks yet another stage in the de facto government’s lengthy persecution of him. His imprisonment follows a series of politically-motivated trials, arbitrary arrests and intimidation against critics of Russian authorities in Crimea. It is a clear violation of freedom of expression,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine.

    In less than a month, three vocal critics of Russia’s annexation of Crimea have been convicted after being brought before criminal courts for non-violently opposing the de facto authorities. On 22 September, Ukrainian journalist and Crimea resident, Mykola Semena was found guilty on similar “separatism” charges. Eleven days before that, Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy leader of the Mejlis – the executive-representative body for Crimean Tatars – was sentenced to eight years in a penal colony after a sham trial.

    “It looks like in Crimea reprisals will continue until there is no one left to criticize the occupation,” said Oksana Pokalchuk.

    “The sentences against Akhtem Chiygoz, Mykola Semena and Ilmi Umerov must be immediately quashed. Chiygoz should be immediately and unconditionally freed, and any restrictions imposed on any one of them as part of their sentence immediately lifted.”

    Background

    The Simferopol District Court found Ilmi Umerov, the deputy leader of the Crimean Tatar community’s now outlawed representative body Mejlis, guilty of making “public calls to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” (Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two years in a penal colony.

    During the pre-trial investigation, Ilmi Umerov was confined in a psychiatric institution for three weeks to undergo a forced examination. Apparently as a form of punishment, Umerov was placed in a closed ward for patients with severe mental health conditions. His defence team has vowed to appeal his sentence and Umerov will remain at home until the appeal is heard.

    Mykola Semena, a local journalist, was one of the few remaining pro-Ukrainian journalists in Crimea after the Russian occupation in 2014. The Russian security services placed him under surveillance and eventually started a criminal case against him for writing an article in which he called for the Russian forces to leave Crimea. On 22 September, the District Court in Simferopol handed him a two and a half years suspended sentence, which prohibits him from participating in public life for three years.

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    For media inquiries, contact: Jacob Kuehn, Media Relations at (613) 744-7667 ext 236 or jkuehn@amnesty.ca