Crimea: Tatar dissident sentenced to two years in a penal colony | News | DW | 27.09.2017
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Crimea: Tatar dissident sentenced to two years in a penal colony

The court found the Tatar leader guilty of "separatism" for calling on Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine. Ukraine has called the verdict "illegal and politically-motivated."

A court in the Crimean capital Simferopol sentenced a chronically ill Tatar dissident to two years in a prison colony on Wednesday after finding him guilty of undermining Russian territorial sovereignty.

Ilmi Umerov told an interviewer from Crimean Tatar television ATR in May 2016 that Russia,which annexed Crimea in 2014, should return the territory back to Ukraine. Umerov's lawyer claimed the interview had been badly translated.

Ukrainians protest for freeing Tartar dissidents

Ilmi Umerov is one of many Tartar dissidents who have been tried by Russian-controlled courts in Crimea

Umerov nevertheless told news agency AFP that he still believed that "Crimea is the territory of Ukraine that has been occupied by Russia." He added: "This sentence will not force me to change my convictions."

Umerov was the deputy head of the Tatar's elected body in Crimea, the Mejlis legislature, before Russian authorities declared it an extremist organization in April and effectively shut it down. The move was part of a crackdown against the Tatars, a predominately Muslim minority in Crimea who have largely opposed Russia's annexation.

Umerov's attorney, Mark Feygin, said the verdict was "yet more proof that there are no trials of political cases in Russia -- these are just orders and political expediency of the Kremlin." He said Umerov, who is 60 and suffers from Parkinson's disease and diabetes, would appeal the decision.

"His dispatch to a prison colony would mean his death," Feygin added.

Ukraine said the "illegal and politically-motivated" verdict violated Umerov's human rights. President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said Umerov was a "hero of his people against whom Moscow used the worst methods of the Soviet repressive machine."

Ukraine Parade zum Unabhängigkeitstag Rede Poroschenko (Reuters/G. Garanich)

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called Umerov a "hero of his people"

The verdict follows the decision by another court to sentence Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz to eight years in prison after he was involved in deadly clashes at a political rally. Amnesty International, an international human rights group, called Chiygoz's trial a "sham."

UN officials have also recently reported Russia's "grave human rights violations" during the course of its occupation of the peninsula. Moscow dismisses those accusations.

Many Western countries including the US and Germany do not recognize Russian control of Crimea, dismissing Moscow's argument that most Crimeans voted to join Russia in fair referendum in March 2014.

amp/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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