Russian prison system is a ticking time bomb for health of a Crimean Tatar.

Russia’s unlawful occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea, the indigenous land of Crimean Tatars, has sent a wave of terror across the peninsula. Russian occupation authorities are jumping through hoops to gag Crimean dissidents, among whom are religious people, journalists and activists. Crimean Tatars, who have mounted an overarching peaceful resistance to occupation since 2014, are bearing the brunt of repressions. Russia-controlled kangaroo courts churn out falsified criminal cases against them. Teymur Abdullayev is one of the Crimean Tatars who ended up in the hands of the Russian Themis. Now the concern heightens in the face of his Covid-19 complications in Russian prison conditions.

On 12 October 2016, Kamenka and Strohanovka districts of Simferopol city in Crimea saw arbitrary mass searches in the homes of Crimean Tatars. The searches were followed by the arrest of five innocent people on alleged terrorism charges. Among them were two brothers — Teymur Abdullayev and Uzeir Abdullayev .

Five wrongfully convicted of alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea. Photo: Memorial

Teymur Abdullayev was incriminated Article 205.5(1) Russian Criminal Code, “organization of activities of a terrorist organization,” while Uzeir Abdullayev, Rustem Ismailov, Aider Saledinov, and Emil Dzhemadenov were accused under Article 205.5(2), “participation in activities of a terrorist organization.”

On 18 June 2019, North Caucasus court-martial in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, of judges A. V. Kolesnik, I. V. Kostin, and Y. V. Korobenko rendered a guilty verdict against all five Crimean Tatars sentencing Teymur Abdullayev to 17 years of imprisonment, Uzeir Abdullayev to 13 years, Rustem Ismailov to 14 years, and Aider Saledinov and Emil Dzhemadenov to 12 years in a strict regime colony. As a result of appellate proceedings, the Supreme Court of Russia reduced the sentence for each prisoner by as “much” as six months.

The five innocent Crimean Tatars are serving their time behind the bars in corrective colonies No. 2 and No. 16 in Salavat city, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia. Russia has been deemed in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private and family life) by imprisoning Crimean Tatars thousands of miles away from their nearest and dearest.

The defendants of this case deny their guilt and believe the prosecution is based on religion, as Crimean Tatars profess Islam. This case is also referred to as the Simferopol case of Hizb-ut Tahrir.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a transnational pan-Islamist organization abiding by solely peaceful means. None of its members has been convicted of a terrorist act. Russia is one of the two countries globally (together with Uzbekistan) to have likened Hizb ut-Tahrir to a terrorist organization. This is done to obtain legal tools to fight religious dissent by persecuting the Muslim community in Russia and Russia-occupied Crimea. As of 26 March 2021, at least 322 people in Russia and Crimea have been arrested for alleged affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Simferopol group of Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Photo: Crimean Solidarity

In the opinion of lawyers in such cases, no material proof of guilt or involvement with the terrorism of the defendants were found. The only “evidence” presented is the audio of conversations of the accused about religion in a mosque.

“The five men have been tried under terrorism law without being accused of terrorism,” concluded the prominent Memorial Human Rights Centre when recognising these Crimean Tatars as political prisoners.

The UN, OSCE, European Parliament and other renowned international bodies have issued numerous resolutions demanding Russia release the political prisoners.

Teymur Abdullayev has been illegally held in a punishment cell for more than a year. Russian human rights defender Lev Ponomaryov directed an information request to the Penal Service in Bashkortostan about the reason for keeping Abdullayev in a punishment cell forever and a day. But he got no reply.

According to Teymur himself, the ground for Russian prison staff to keep him in dire conditions is his refusal to cooperate with Russia’s FSB and give false testimony against other Crimean Tatars. Evidence is abundant that the FSB resorts to torturing and threatening prisoners in order to squeeze out “evidence.”

To make the matter worse, since imprisonment, Teymur’s health has greatly deteriorated. This is largely due to the conditions in Russian prisons. Teymur Abdullayev has confronted a hypertensive crisis and is suffering from Covid-19 complications. Teymur’s mother is a doctor and she believes her son is suffering from an inflammation of the heart muscle after having recovered from Covid-19.

In a punishment cell, Teymur has virtually no time outside a small stuffy room, where the bunk bed is only lowered for several hours from late at night, and raised by about 4-5 a.m. That is, Abdullayev has to stand or sit on an uncomfortable wooden stool for most hours of the day.

Given his health, prison staff must ensure proper medical tests for Abdullayev and place him in a special medical unit, which is clearly required. But they consciously fail to do so. Earlier, Abdullayev ’s lawyer Emil Kurbedinov noted that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had started following the situation. But the prison staff states that they act under the law.

In fact, inadequate access to healthcare for prisoners can be deemed as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture. The European Court of Human Rights in its case Salakhov and Islyamova v Ukraine [2013] ECHR, Application No. 28005/08 ruled that “a prison health care service should be able to provide medical treatment […] in conditions comparable to those enjoyed by patients in the outside community” and that “[w]henever prisoners need to be hospitalised or examined by a specialist in a hospital, they should be transported with the promptness and in the manner required by their state of health”.

Teymur Abdullayev with his kids. Photo: Crimean Solidarity

“ I want to believe that my sons will overcome these difficult and unjust challenges they had to face in this dark hour,” wrote Diliara Abdullayev, the mother of the two political prisoners, on her Facebook.

Teymur Abdullayev is a lawyer, Taekwon-Do instructor and a father of five. He and his brother Uzeir Abdullayev are the grandchildren of a prominent linguist and member of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. They were raised by Diliara Abdullayeva on her own, as their dad passed away when the brothers were little. Both Teymur and Uzeir worked as trainers in Simferopol and before the occupation of Crimea, provided training for policemen, a great number of whom switches sides in 2014. One of these officers approached Uzeir’s wife to let her know that the accusations against her husband were falsified but “1/4 inch is 1/4 inch.”

The Centre for Civil Liberties, the Ukrainian human rights NGO working for the release of the Kremlin’s Ukrainian political prisoners, slogan says, “Our solidarity is stronger than Russian prisons.”

You can show your solidarity with Teymur Abdullayev today by joining the information campaign:

1. Use the frame on your FB profile picture:

2. Record a video with the hashtag #freeTeymurAbdullayev to show support to Teymur and his family.

3. Take a photo with a poster with the hashtag #freeTeymurAbdullayev.

Send your photos and videos to the Facebook page of Crimean Solidarity.

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