Accessibility links

Ukraine Leaders, Protesters Demand Release Of Crimean Tatar Activist

  • RFE/RL

Crimean Tatar activist Ilmi Umerov (file photo)

Crimean Tatar activist Ilmi Umerov (file photo)

Ukrainian leaders, Human Rights Watch, and protesters in Kyiv called for the release of a Crimean Tatar activist who was forced into a psychiatric hospital in Russia-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin compared Ilmi Umerov's detention to the Soviet-era practice of holding dissidents in psychiatric hospitals.

"Punitive psychiatry is a return to the terrible times of the NKVD," Klimkin wrote on Twitter, referring to the secret police under Stalin.

He and other supporters of Umerov started a Twitter hashtag #StopKillingIlmiUmerov.

A group of Crimean Tatar activists and government officials held a protest at Kyiv's Independence Square carrying a banner reading: "Free Ilmi Umerov."

And in a statement on August 26, Human Rights Watch urged the Russia-backed authorities in Crimea to drop the trumped-up charges against Umerov and provide him with necessary medical treatment.

Umerov, the former deputy chairman of Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, was charged with separatism in May after he made public statements against Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.

Speaking to the AFP news agency by phone from inside the hospital on August 26, Umerov said: "Just the fact of my being here in a psychiatric hospital is one long act of torture."

"I a free man in a cage."

Umerov, 59, whose relatives and lawyers say he suffers from diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and heart problems, has been in a psychiatric hospital against his will since August 18.

"His life remains in danger," his lawyer Nikolai Polozov told AFP, saying his client was suffering from spikes in blood pressure.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has called the case against Umerov "illegal and politically motivated."

With reporting by AFP