Crimean Tatar Activist's Suspended Sentence Upheld

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The Russia-controlled Supreme Court of Crimea has upheld a suspended two-year prison sentence for a Crimean Tatar activist who opposes Moscow's rule in the Ukrainian region.

The court ruled on May 3 that a previous decision by a court in the city of Feodosia on March 1 that found Suleyman Kadyrov guilty of "publicly instigating to the violation of Russia's territorial integrity" was right.

The May 3 ruling also barred Kadyrov from "public activities" for one year, a sentence that prevents him from taking part in demonstrations.

The charge stems from Kadyrov's 2016 reposting of a video on Facebook about a pro-Ukrainian volunteer military unit and a comment he added to the video that said, "Crimea was, is, and will always be Ukraine!"

Kadyrov pleaded not guilty, arguing that he has the right to express his opinion.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they call a campaign of repression targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority and others who opposed Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.

The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.

In March last year, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens it said were in prison or under restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.