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Moscow Police Detain Dozens Of Supporters Of Crimean Tatars Convicted On Terrorism Charges

The activists had gathered in front of Moscow's Supreme Court building on July 11 to show solidarity with four Crimean Tatars sentenced to lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges that critics say are bogus.

MOSCOW -- Police in Moscow have detained dozens of demonstrators who rallied in front of the Supreme Court to show solidarity with four Crimean Tatars sentenced to lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges.

The activists gathered in front of the Supreme Court building on July 11, when the court began looking into appeals by four Crimean Tatars sentenced to prison terms between nine and 17 years in December for being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group.

Almost all demonstrators were detained by police and taken away in buses.

OVD-Info, an independent group that monitors police crackdowns against demonstrators in Russia, says at least 45 demonstrators were detained.

A day earlier, police detained seven activists who were protesting in Moscow's Red Square against the treatment of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine's Russian-occupied region of Crimea.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was banned in Russia after Kremlin authorities deemed it to be a "terrorist" organization. It is not banned in Ukraine.

But Moscow has imposed its own laws on the Crimean Peninsula since Russian military forces seized the territory from Ukraine and Moscow illegally annexed the region in early 2014.

In June, a court in Russia sentenced five Crimean Tatars to prison terms ranging from 12 to 17 years after finding them guilty of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Also in June, eight other Crimean Tatars were arrested by Russian-installed authorities in Crimea and charged with belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Since Russian forces occupied Crimea in late February of 2014, the authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars on charges of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In March and April, Russia's Federal Security Service detained 24 Crimean Tatars on suspicion of being members of the group following a wave of similar house-to-house searches.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities against Crimean Tatars and others who have spoken out against Moscow's military seizure and occupation of the peninsula.