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Prominent Crimean Tatar Gets 19-Year Prison Sentence In Absentia

Lenur Islyamov (file photo)
Lenur Islyamov (file photo)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The Russian-controlled Supreme Court in Crimea has sentenced the owner of the ATR Crimean Tatar television channel, Lenur Islyamov, to 19 years in prison in absentia.

The court in the Russia-annexed Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula found Islyamov guilty on December 10 of organizing sabotage, creating an illegal armed group, and publicly calling for Russia's territorial integrity to be violated. He was sentenced the same day.

Islyamov's lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, told RFE/RL that his client does not recognize the court's legitimacy.

"My client considers Crimea a temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine and therefore considers all institutions of the occupying authorities to be illegal and he does not recognize their jurisdiction," Polozov said, adding that the court's ruling will be appealed.

Investigators in Crimea claim that Islyamov was one of the organizers of the Noman Chelebidzhikhan battalion of Crimean Tatar volunteers that operates in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region bordering the Crimean peninsula.

Islyamov, who has resided in Kyiv since 2015, told RFE/RL earlier that he would not take part in the trial, and rejected the charges against him while calling the judicial process a mockery of justice.

The occupying Russian authorities have refused to issue a broadcasting license to Islyamov's ATR television channel after annexing Crimea in early 2014.

In June 2015, ATR resumed broadcasting from Kyiv via satellite throughout Ukraine, including in Crimea.

Rights groups and Western governments have repeatedly denounced what they call a persistent campaign targeting Crimea's indigenous people -- the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatars, the majority of whom opposed Moscow's annexation of their homeland.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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