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Russian FSB Detains Crimean Tatar Activists After Searching Their Homes

(illustrative photo)
(illustrative photo)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Russian security forces have detained eight Crimean Tatar activists after searching their homes in Ukraine's Russian-controlled Crimea region, a Ukrainian human rights group says.

An RFE/RL correspondent reports from Crimea that Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Riza Omerov, his father Enver Omerov, Eskender Suleymanov, Ayder Dzhepparov, Ruslan Mesutov, Ruslan Nagayev, Eldar Kantemirov, and Lenur Khalilov on June 10 after searching their homes in the districts of Alushta, Bilohirsk, and Simferopol.

A Crimean lawyer, Mammet Mambetov, said on Facebook that during the search, Riza Omerov's wife, who is seven months pregnant, went into premature labor and was rushed to the hospital.

The FSB said that its officers searched several homes in Crimea belonging to individuals suspected of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine.

In late March, the FSB detained 20 Crimean Tatars, also on suspicion of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, following house-to-house searches in Simferopol -- the regional capital and home to many Crimean Tatars -- and nearby districts.

Since Russia seized the peninsula in 2014, Russian 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 Russian-imposed authorities 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.

In its annual report on religious freedom worldwide, released on April 29, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that "[in] Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian authorities continued to kidnap, torture, and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims at will."

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 some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

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