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"Azatliq" Action Campaign

Reviewed by Idil P. Izmirli

Crimean Tatars Campaign for the Protection of Their Rights
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
The Hague, The Netherlands

On December 29, 2004, the Central District Court of Crimea in Simferopol brought charges against six Crimean Tatars. The accused included the Crimean Tatar National Movement activist and a member of a Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Kurtseit Abdullaev, and five young Crimean Tatars: Simar Khayredinov, Lenur Malaev, Elvis Kurtametov, Fahri Seitkhalilov and Dilyaver Maksudov. The latter five young activists were accused of initiating the infamous Cotton Club incident (March 23, 2004), where skinheads stabbed several young Crimean Tatars and caused consequent chaotic events in this Pushkin street bar. Kurtseit Abdullaev on the other hand, who is the delegate of the Crimean Tatar Qurultay and a member of the working group on the prevention of the inter ethnic conflicts of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC), was accused of allegedly attacking the cameraman of the Russian television company ORT during the Simeiz events that took place in March 2004.

Immediately after the Court's decision, these "falsely" convicted six people were transported to different prisons in different regions of Ukraine. The families of the accused have to date no reliable information on the well being or location of these prisoners. The jail sentences of the accused vary from 1.5 years to 9 years.

On March 15, 2005, the Court of Appeals of the (ARC) turned down the appeals and left the verdict unaltered for the six prisoners, regardless of Crimean Tatar Mejlis' negotiations with the prosecutors about this unjust imprisonment. Thereafter, the "Azatliq" action campaign was launched as a reaction to the Court's decision. Consequently, the "Azatliq" movement started to prepare an action plan that included the distribution of information materials to the public and the Diaspora members. On march 22, 2005, the "Azatliq" action campaign put up tent cities in Simferopol Central Square. In a few weeks, the petitions were drawn, multiple signatures were collected, and the first issue of the the "Azatliq" action newsletter was printed and distributed.

Between April 9, 2005 &150; May 18, 2005, the "Azatliq" action campaign carried out various protest marches in places of Crimean Tatar compact settlements. On April 2, 2005, the protest march that was initiated in the Simeiz settlement (Yalta region), started to move towards Simferopol. At each stop in Crimean Tatar settlements, more protesters voluntarily came and joined the march. Soon after, other protest marchers from other places, including Yalta-Alushta region, Sevastopol zone, Bakhchisaray, Simferopol, Kerch, Lenin, Feodosia, Sovet, Belogorsk, Karasu-Bazar, and Kirov regions also joined to the "Azatliq" action protests. On their way to Simferopol, these marchers stopped in different Crimean Tatar compact settlement areas and distributed information leaflets to the Crimean Tatar residents.

In the mean time, the families of the accused went to Kiev and met with the members of the Office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine, the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On May 4, 2005, the "Azatliq" presented a petition with 11,000 signature to A. Zinchenko, head of the Secretariat of the president of the Ukraine. On May 5, 2005, when the members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis met with the president of Ukraine, V. Yushchenko, they also handed him two copies of this petition. Until then, the "Azatliq" action campaign was able to collect over 15,000 signatures for the petition to the President of Ukraine. Written information and photos of the unjustly jailed individuals as well as other anti-Crimean Tatar events were also sent to UNO and CoE executive councils, and the Crimean Tatar Diaspora (USA, Romania, and Turkey).

Currently, the "Azatliq" campaign is working toward reversing the jail sentences of the falsely accused Crimean Tatars and has asked for investigation of those corrupt judges who did not have any valid evidence for the guilty verdicts.

PS: If you want to read more on the topic, you can check the following web site for Nadir Bekir's article: Crimean Tatars Organization Appeals to UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders.

Posted: 24 June 2005

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