Press release

Russian Forces in Crimea Pressure Human Rights Lawyers

Occupation forces detained Emil Kurbedinov, a prominent Crimean Tatar lawyer in Crimea, and one of his clients, Seyran Saliev. Kurbedinov was arrested and almost immediately tried and convicted.

Washington

In response to the detentions of two key human rights lawyers in Crimea, Nikolai Polozov and Emil Kurbedinov, and one of their clients, Seyran Saliev, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Russia should release Kurbedinov and Saliev and should begin complying with the international law on occupation,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “Russian forces’ repeated violation of basic legal principles has made Crimea an area where fundamental human rights no longer apply, and where there is little hope for legal challenges to the security forces’ whims.”

Background:

On January 26, occupation forces detained Emil Kurbedinov, a prominent Crimean Tatar lawyer in Crimea, and one of his clients, Seyran Saliev. Kurbedinov was arrested and almost immediately tried and convicted of propaganda or public display of Nazi or extremist symbols, apparently for a 2013 video post on the Russian social media network VK which showed an event organized by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic group banned in Russia. Kurbedinov was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Saliev is expected to be charged with terrorism. Saliev’s home was aggressively searched by armed men apparently looking for materials connected with Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Saliev is a civic activist who was fined in May 2016 for announcing through the loudspeaker of a minaret about the illegal searches in Crimean Tatar homes in Crimea. Russian forces in Crimea frequently use the charge of alleged affiliation with Hizb-ut-Tahrir to persecute peaceful activists.

On January 25, Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer who has represented persecuted Crimean Tatar leader and activist Ilmi Umerov, was detained for several hours by Russian Federal Security Service. Umerov served as a deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar self-governing body, the Mejlis, was charged with “separatism” for his criticism of Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea, and subjected to forced psychiatric care. Umerov, who is ill with a heart condition and diabetes, remains under house arrest as the investigation continues.

Crimea is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016 and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016