Sep 22, 2022

Russia Sentences Crimean Tatar Representative to 17 Years of Prison

The Russian Federation has sentenced Crimean Tatar Representative Nariman Dzhelyal to 17 years in prison for alleged sabotage. Dzhelyal is the vice-president of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar legislative chamber that now acts as a platform for their representative since the Russian annexation. His arrest is one of countless of Crimean Tatar activists in the Peninsula seen as enemies of the state and a threat to potential reconfiguration of Crimean sovereignty to its previous state.

Annexed since 2014, Crimea has seen a massive increase in security personnel due to its strategic and sensitive location. Crimean Tatars opposed the annexation, fearing that Russian reprisals would continue as they did during the deportation of Crimean Tatar people after WW2. Tatars have historically been painted as a fifth column by Russian nationalist discourse and . Since the annexation and subsequent invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Russian authorities have arrested hundreds of Crimean Tatar lawyers, activists and Mejlis members on rebellion, terrorism and sedition charges. The Mejlis itself is banned since 2014, by the pro-Moscow regime that currently governs Crimea Oblast.

Dzhelyal was arrested alongside two Crimean Tatar brothers, Asan and Aziz Akhtemov. They were given 15 and 13 years respectively according to Radio Free Europe. The arrests were followed by a protest of Crimean Tatars in front of the Russian Federal Security Service headquarters in the Peninsula – leading to a further 50 more people detained. All around Russia opponents of the war in Ukraine are also being detained for protesting and minorities in particular are the first to be drafted into the frontline.

UNPO is dismayed by the treatment of Crimean Tatar activists in the annexed peninsula. Russian claims to Crimea rely on the concept of self-determination yet genuine self-determination activists who wish a separate constitutional order are being imprisoned in a blatant violation of freedom of speech. Our recently released report on the tools used by governments to suppress self-determination activists sheds light on these practices. We believe that Crimea’s constitutional arrangement needs to involve all stakeholders from the various communities there and that Russia’s misuse of referendums in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine to justify an imperialistic war is contrary to the true value of self-determination.