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Tatar Independence Activist Receives Suspended Sentence

Fauziya Bayramova, chairwoman of the Milli Medjlis, a self-proclaimed pan-Tatar national assembly
CHALLY, Tatarstan -- A leader of Tatarstan's pro-independence movement has been found guilty of fomenting interethnic hatred via the media, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Fauziya Bayramova, the chairwoman of the Milli Medjlis, a self-proclaimed pan-Tatar national assembly, was sentenced on February 24 to a one-year suspended sentence by a court in Tatarstan's second-largest city of Chally. Bayramova's lawyers said that they will appeal the verdict.

In an open letter issued in December 2008, the Milli Medjlis called on the international community to recognize Tatarstan's independence from Russia. The appeal was later published on several websites. Russia had recognized the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia just a few months earlier.

The Russian authorities said the Milli Medjlis appeal was an attempt to violate Russia's territorial integrity and that it provoked interethnic hatred.

The verdict was announced in Bayramova's absence.

She had protested a state television crew's presence in the court and refused to enter the courtroom to hear the verdict. She told RFE/RL that state TV has previously used such events to slander her and the Milli Medjlis's activities.

Tatar activist Talgat Akhmadishin told RFE/RL that Bayramova's trial reminded him of the show trials under Soviet leader Josef Stalin. He said political trials of Tatar pro-independence or religious activists never end with an acquittal.

Bayramova declared in November that she can no longer live in Russia because of severe persecution by the authorities and that she is seeking to emigrate.
She said Tatar officials do nothing to prevent the federal authorities "persecuting Tatar patriots in the republic."

Tatarstan's Justice Ministry ruled in November that the activities of the Milli Medjlis, which was established by Tatar nationalists in 1992, should be suspended for four months.