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Russian Court Sentences Seven Crimean Tatars To Lengthy Prison Terms

Outside the Southern Military Regional court in the city of Rostov-on-Don before the verdict on September 16

A court in Russia has sentenced seven Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on charges of being members of a banned Islamic group.

On September 16, the Southern Military Regional court in the city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Marlen Asanov, Memet Belyalov, Timur Ibragimov, Seyran Saliyev, Server Mustafayev, Server Zekiryayev, and Edem Smailov to prison terms of between 13 and 19 years.

All were found guilty of being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group, which is labeled as extremist and banned in Russia but is legal in Ukraine.

An eighth defendant, Ernes Ametov, was acquitted.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Crimea said earlier that Smailov and Mustafayev, a coordinator of the Crimean Solidarity human rights group, were arrested in May 2018, while the other men were arrested in Crimea in October 2017.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they have called a persistent campaign of oppression targeting Crimean Tatars and other citizens who opposed Moscow's forcible annexation of the peninsula.

Russia occupied and seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.