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Tatar activist accused of inciting hatred and supporting Ukraine
Russia, action created 2.2.2015, petition is active
On December 28, 2014, in his home in Naberzhnye Chelny (the second largest city of the Russian Tatarstan), Kašapov is detained. Kašapov is director of the NGO Tatar Public Center.
Ten armed men were taken to Kazan and placed into custody. Two days later, he was detained and his lawyer announced that Kašapov was accused of inciting hatred and hostility through his contempt of human dignity. According to the commission of inquiry, such allegations are based on four contributions published in Kašapov's personal profile on the Russian social network VKontakte. In them, Kašapov harshly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Government of the Russian Federation, especially because of their current approach to Ukraine. He also condemned the persecution of ethnic Tatars in Crimea, Ukrainian peninsula, which Russia has occupied since last March. This is not the first instance of the persecution of individuals based solely on solidarity towards Ukraine.
Kašapov's critical online contributions fall under the right to free expression, which is guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which Russia has signed). Kašapov did not advocate hatred, and although it might be considered offensive, Amnesty International believes that insults should not be legally punishable.
The Occupation of Crimea followed suit after the expulsion of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after months of pro-democracy and pro-European protests in Kiev. On the night of 26 February, Crimean "militia", which - as it turned out - consisted of Russian units - occupied office buildings in the capital of the autonomous region of Simferopol. This strengthened military presence on the Russian naval base of Sevastopol blocked the Ukrainian military installations across the peninsula.
On March 16, a "referendum" revealed that the majority of the residents of Crimea voted for the annexing of Crimea into Russia. On March 18, Russian President Putin signed a decree that declared the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The validity of this Act and the validity of the referendum are rejected by the international community. In the ongoing war in Donbas, it is clear that Russian soldiers and equipment are being used.
The Crimean Tatars are the indigenous ethnic group of Crimea. In 1944, Stalin proclaimed them as collaborators of Nazi Germany and deported them to remote areas of the Soviet Union. They were eventually rehabilitated back to the peninsula and were allowed to return in 1988. Since the beginning of the Soviet occupation of Crimean territory, Tatars have faced oppression and persecution. They are denied the right to freedom of movement, expression and assembly.
Two of the most important leaders of the Tatar community in the Crimea, human rights activists Mustafa Džemilov and Refat Chubarov, were expelled from the peninsula and were forbidden to return. Several other people have since been subjected to violence. Of all these instances, which also included cases of disappearance, none of them were properly investigated. For instance, Refat Ametov, a man who protested on March 3 in front of the regional government in Simferopol, was escorted away by three members of the local "militia". His body was found two weeks later and showed signs of torture. Although the prosecution was formally initiated, there was never an investigation.
Representatives from the Commission of Inquiry mentioned that Rafis Kašmov was detained because he has no permanent source of income, which would thus lead him to "engage in criminal activities" if he were to be left to his own liberty. On January 19, 2015, Kašmov started to protest his arrest and the prosecution of unauthorized strikers. A member of the local Public Monitoring Commission told Amnesty International that Kašmov suffers from a pre-existing disease and argues that may be exacerbated under the pressure of state officials. After the annexation of Crimea, the Russian authorities announced that all citizens of the peninsula are automatically citizens of the Russian Federation. If one wished to preserve his or her Ukrainian citizenship, he or she must inform the competent authorities in the regional administration.