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Russian Court Jails Three Crimean Tatars On Extremism Charges

Riza Omerov (left), his father, Enver Omerov, and Ayder Dzhepparov (in the background) appear in court in Rostov-on-Don on January 12.

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia -- Another group of Crimean Tatars has been sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of being members of a banned Islamic group and plotting to seize power in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The Southern Military Regional Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on January 12 sentenced Enver Omerov to 18 years, Ayder Dzhepparov to 17 years, and Riza Omerov to 13 years in prison.

The three men, who were arrested in June 2019, were found guilty of plotting to forcibly seize power in Crimea as members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that is banned in Russia, but is legal in Ukraine.

Enver Omerov was also found guilty of organizing the activities of a terrorist group.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova condemned what she called the "aggressor country's illegal decision about our citizens."

"[Russia] with its shameful activities continues to openly violate international agreements and the norms of international law. I would like to remind the international community that especially today, the Day of the Ukrainian Political Prisoner, all Ukrainian citizens kept in the Kremlin's custody need your support and the consolidation of efforts for their earliest release," Denisova said in a statement posted on Telegram.

In two separate cases in the second half of last year, the same court sentenced other Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on similar charges, which they, their supporters, and Ukrainian authorities rejected as politically motivated.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they call a persistent campaign of oppression targeting Crimean Tatars and other citizens who oppose Moscow's annexation.

Russia occupied and seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.