Crimean Tatar Activist Gets 17 Years In Prison in Russia On Terrorism Charges

By RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities

A court in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don has sentenced Crimean Tatar activist Marlen Mustafayev to 17 years in prison on terrorism charges.

The Crimean Solidarity public group said the Southern Military District Court sentenced Mustafayev on November 30, with the first three years of his term to be spent in a prison cell and the remainder in a correctional colony. The court added that after his release, Mustafayev will remain under parole-like control for 18 months.

Mustafayev is known for actively supporting political prisoners and assisting their families. He was arrested, along with three other Crimean Tatar activists, in Russian-occupied Crimea in February after their homes were searched.

They all were accused of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group that is banned in Russia as a terrorist organization but is legal in Ukraine.

All three say they are practicing Muslims and members of a group that is legal.

Since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars on various charges that rights organizations have called trumped-up.

In September, the de facto Supreme Court of Crimea sentenced a leader of the Crimean Tatar community, Nariman Dzhelyal, to 17 years in prison on a sabotage charge that he and his supporters call politically motivated.

Moscow's takeover of the peninsula was vocally opposed by many Crimean Tatars, who are a sizable minority in the region.

Exiled from their homeland to Central Asia by Soviet authorities under the dictatorship of Josef Stalin during World War II, many Crimean Tatars are very wary of Russia and Moscow's rule.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities in Crimea who are targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar community and others who have spoken out against Moscow's takeover of the peninsula.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.