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Crimean Tatar Leader Umerov's Trial Resumes In Simferopol

Ilmi Umerov, deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis.
Ilmi Umerov, deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis.

SIMFEROPOL -- The trial of a Crimean Tatar leader who has criticized Russia's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine resumed on June 21.

Russian authorities who control Crimea have filed separatism charges against Ilmi Umerov -- deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, which is now banned by Moscow.

Umerov was charged in May 2016 after publicly opposing Russia's March 2014 armed takeover of Crimea. He denies the charges, saying he has the right to express his opinions.

His trial began on June 7.

The 59-year-old Umerov is one of several critics of the takeover who have faced what rights activists say are politically motivated criminal charges at the hands of Crimea's Russia-installed authorities.

Umerov's lawyer, Mark Feigin, told RFE/RL before the trial resumed on June 21 that the judge at the hearing, Andriy Kuleshov, is a Ukrainian citizen who is under criminal investigation by authorities in Kyiv.

According to Feigin, neither Russian law nor international law allows judges who are under investigation in any country to preside at trials.

'Politically Motivated'

Umerov also told RFE/RL that a linguist from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) who concluded that Umerov's statements called for separatism had not actually used the texts in the original Crimean Tatar language but, rather, used inaccurate Russian translations.

"My statements, upon which this case has been based, were translated with mistakes into Russian, distorting the meaning of what I said," Umerov said. "Since the FSB linguist based her conclusion on the Russian translation of what I said, the charges against me are invalid."

In August 2016, Umerov was forcibly sent to a psychiatric clinic for a month of what authorities described as assessment tests.

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

Mejlis Chairman Refat Chubarov, who was barred from entering Crimea by a Russian court and is currently residing in Kyiv, says the case against Umerov is part of a campaign of persecution against Crimean Tatars by the Russia-installed authorities.

Chubarov told RFE/RL on June 21 that he is ready to testify at Umerov's trial if Russian authorities allow him to travel to Crimea.

Russia seized control of Crimea after sending in troops and staging a referendum that is considered illegitimate by more than 100 countries that are members of the United Nations.

After the takeover, Russia adopted a law making it a criminal offense in Crimea to question Russia's territorial integrity within what Moscow now says are the borders of Russia.

The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed Russia's seizure and annexation.

Human rights organizations say members of Crimea's Muslim minority have faced a campaign of abuse and oppression under Russian rule.