12 July 2019, 14:39

Russia deliberately portrays peaceful Crimean Tatar activists as terrorists - Human Rights Watch

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Russia is trying to portray the Crimean Tatars, who did not accept the occupation of the Crimea, as terrorists and extremists.

Director of the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch for Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson, made a corresponding statement.

He said that the charges of crimes of a terrorist nature become a convenient tool of Russian repression, the purpose of which is to present peaceful Crimean Tatar activists as members of the terrorist underground and strangle dissent in the occupied Crimea.

Russian authorities should release the activists and stop misusing the country’s overly broad counterterrorism legislation to stifle freedom of opinion, expression, and religion, – human rights defenders state.

The organization paid special attention to the detention in March of this year of 24 Crimean Tatars, most of whom are connected with the Crimean Solidarity – an informal association of human rights and lawyers, relatives of victims of political repression during the Russian occupation, as well as those who sympathize with them.

Human Rights Watch researchers visited Crimea on May 17–20 and interviewed 16 relatives of nine of the arrested Crimean Tatars, five lawyers who defend some of those arrested, and one of the leading activists of the Crimean solidarity.

They also got familiarized with some procedural documents and visited seven addresses from those where searches were carried out, having examined, including, the places where the banned materials were allegedly planted.

Following the results of their monitoring, the researchers of the international human rights organization created a film called “Crimea Today”, telling about the events of March 2019, repressions against the Crimean Tatars and Crimean Solidarity.

On April 2, Human Rights Watch called for the release and removal of all charges against the Crimean Tatars detained in March. The report of the organization noted that the arrest of activists was an unprecedented action to increase pressure on a large group of people who are critical of the Russian occupation of Crimea.