The trial of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov, which opened this week in Simferopol, is a farce and a travesty.
That much is clear.
But it is also more than that.
It's part of an elaborate Kremlin PR campaign -- a campaign with a human victim.
It's a macabre exercise in guerrilla marketing.
It's part of a mind game and a psy-op designed to legitimize and normalize Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.
Umerov was arrested by the FSB in May 2016 and charged with "separatism," because in a televised interview he spoke out against Russia's armed seizure of his homeland.
In August 2016, he was forcibly sent to a psychiatric clinic for a month of tests.
Now let's get something straight here. Something that should be patently obvious.
Umerov is a Ukrainian citizen. And according to international law he is located on Ukrainian territory -- territory that is being illegally occupied by Russia.
He wasn't calling for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity, as Moscow charges.
He was calling for the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity.
If there are any separatists here, they're in the Kremlin.
The separatism charge against Umerov is designed to send the message that Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea is a fait accompli.
And anybody who questions this will be treated either as a criminal -- or as insane.
It's crude. It's brutal. And for the Crimean Tatars, it's the new normal.