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Four Crimean Tatars Jailed On Extremism Charges In Russia

The defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case appear in court on August 16.1
The defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case appear in court on August 16.1

A Russian court has handed lengthy prison terms to four Crimean Tatars for being members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group.

According to the Crimean Solidarity human rights group, the Southern District Military Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on August 16 sentenced Ruslan Mesutov and Lenur Khalilov to 18 years in prison each, Ruslan Nagayev to 13 years, and Eldar Kantimirov to 12 year in prison.

The four men were arrested in June 2019 after their homes were searched.

Ukraine's ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, protested against the court's "illegal" ruling and urged the international community to "force the Russian Federation to stop groundless detentions and rigged trials of illegally detained Ukrainian citizens."

"By illegally trying Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian citizens, the occupier-country Russian Federation violates the norms of international law, the European Convention on Human Rights, basic freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Denisova wrote on Telegram.

Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and since then Moscow-imposed authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the authorities installed in Crimea, who are targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar community and others who have spoken out against Moscow's takeover of the peninsula.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Russia as a terrorist organization but operates legally in Ukraine.

However, Moscow imposed its own laws on the Crimean Peninsula after the annexation.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.

Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

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