The World Movement for Democracy is alarmed to report that Russian authorities have targeted two human rights lawyers for defending Crimean Tatar activists. On January 25, Nikolai Polozov was detained and questioned by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Simferopol, located on the Crimean peninsula, for his association with a Crimean Tatar activist, Ilmi Umerov. Polozov is one of four lawyers defending Umerov, who is charged with “violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” for his comments criticizing Russian occupation of Crimea during a televised interview last year. On January 26, Russian agents also detained Emil Kurbedinov, another lawyer representing Umerov, and raided his office and apartment confiscating equipment including laptops. On the same day of the raid, Kurbedinov’s client Seyran Saliev – a civic activist and fellow Crimean Tatar – was also arrested.
Although Polozov was released shortly after being detained, Kurbedinov will remain in jail for at least 10 days. He is “accused of publishing photos of a 2013 protest” associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to Freedom House, authorities also searched Saliev’s house for materials associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir, and he is expected to be charged with allegations of terrorism. Kurbedinov defends political prisoners in Crimea, as well as several individuals accused of supporting the organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. As part of Ukrainian Crimea, Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal. However, Russia has banned Hizb ut-Tahrir and has accused Crimean Tatars critical of Russia of being Hizb ut-Tahrir members since invading and annexing Crimea.
Three days before his arrest, Polozov spoke to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the deterioration of human rights in Crimea. The World Movement for Democracy urges the Russian Federation to drop all charges against Kurbedinov, and immediately release him and Saliev, as well as end its systematic persecution of Crimean Tatars. Click here to join us in sharing this solidarity tweet demanding justice!
Emil Kurbedinov pictured above.