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Police Search Home Of Tatar NGO's Leader In Kazan, Summon Him For Questioning

Tatar activist Farit Zakiyev (file photo)
Tatar activist Farit Zakiyev (file photo)

KAZAN, Russia -- The chairman of the All-Tatar Public Center (TIU) says police and security officers in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan have searched his home and summoned him for questioning in a case concerning the incitement of hatred.

Farit Zakiyev told RFE/RL that police and officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB) came to his apartment in Kazan early on March 4 and searched the premises, confiscating his and his wife's smartphones.

Zakiyev said he was informed that the case was launched regarding a 2019 event related to the annual commemoration of Tatars who died during the 1552 siege of the city by Russian troops.

"They ordered me to come for questioning to the Investigative Committee tomorrow at 2 p.m., but did not say in what capacity I was summoned. This is absolute lawlessness. It is strange that I am even implicated in the case to start with because the event in question was organized by private individuals not by my organization," Zakiyev said.

TIU, which has been functioning since 1989, is known for activities promoting Tatar culture, language, and traditions, as well as equal rights for ethnic Tatars.

Some participants in the annual event in October 2019 were sentenced at the time to community work or fined for praying and reading the Koran and using words about "Tatarstan's statehood."

In October 1552, Russian Tsar Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, conquered the Khanate of Kazan after two weeks of resistance. Many of the Khanate's Muslim population were killed after the siege or forcibly Christianized afterward.

Last month, Zakiyev held a hunger strike, protesting a motion by prosecutors to label his organization as extremist and shut it down. A court decision on the prosecutors' motion is pending.

The situation mirrors similar developments in the neighboring Republic of Bashkortostan, where last year a court banned a prominent Bashqort group that had long promoted the Bashkir language and culture.

The court on May 22 labeled the group extremist and banned its operations based on what it called the "presence in the organization of individuals who had been convicted on extremism charges."

The group's leader, Fail Alsynov, said at the time that the extremism charges against members of his organizations were politically motivated.

Both TIU and Bashqort activists have faced pressure in recent years after staging several rallies and other events challenging the policies of both local and federal authorities, including Moscow's move to abolish mandatory indigenous-language classes in regions with large populations of indigenous ethnic groups.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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