Crimean court bans ‘extremist’ Tatar governing body


Crimean Tatars attend a memorial ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Tatars from Crimea, near a mosque in Simferopol in 2014. Photograph: Max Vetrov/AFP/Getty Images

Ruling against Mejlis sparks fears of renewed crackdown against peninsula’s ethnic minority.
The top court in Crimea has banned the ruling body of the Crimean Tatar community, the Mejlis, branding it an extremist organisation in the latest move against the peninsula’s ethnic minority.

The supreme court of Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine last year, ruled in favour of a lawsuit lodged by the top prosecutor of the Black Sea peninsula, who had accused the Mejlis of illegal actions and “acts of sabotage” against the territory’s new Russian authorities.

Prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya ordered the Mejlis to cease its activities earlier this month, accusing the respected body which has been working in Crimea for 25 years of “extremism”.

The lawyer for the Mejlis, Dzhemil Temishev, said the organisation would appeal against the decision. “The prosecutor did not prove that the Mejlis’ activities are extremist, everything we heard in court is her personal assessment,” Temishev said.

The Crimean Tatars make up about 13% of Crimea’s population. They are a Muslim people native to the peninsula who were deported under Josef Stalin’s reign, returning only at the collapse of the Soviet Union when the territory was granted autonomy status within a newly independent Ukraine.

The Mejlis resisted the peninsula’s return to Moscow rule in 2014 and has been operating under pressure, with many key figures banished from the region. Some Crimean Tatar leaders have also attempted to organise a blockade of the peninsula.

Police have raided the homes of many Crimean Tatars and took the prominent Tatar TV channel ATR off the air last year. Several community leaders have been prosecuted for allegedly organising riots in February 2014 before Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

A deputy chairman of the Mejlis said it would try to continue its work despite the ban. “This court decision was absolutely expected,” Nariman Dzhelal said. “But that does not mean that the Mejlis will cease to exist, it will continue working in Ukraine and other countries.”

Dzhelal also warned that Russia’s security services could use the ruling to further crack down on Crimean Tatars.

Rights groups and the Council of Europe have condemned the ban, with Amnesty International saying it “demolishes one of the few remaining rights of a minority that Russia must protect instead of persecute”.

Agence France-Presse in Simferopol, The Guardian

Author: Редакция Avdet