Russia demands loyalty or silence, say Crimea's hounded Tatars

The deputy head of the Mejlis -- the Crimean Tatars' elected assembly -- was on September 7 released from three weeks' involuntary detention in a psychiatric hospital in Simferopol, on the Black Sea.

Russia demands loyalty or silence, say Crimea's hounded Tatars

World Bulletin / News Desk

Crimean Tartar activist Ilmi Umerov walks slowly and has difficulty controlling his left arm but his voice is strong and his eyes are piercing as he reiterates his rejection of Moscow's rule in the peninsula, an opinion for which he faces trial.

His incarceration for tests of his "mental capacity" followed his televised insistence that Crimea should be returned to Ukraine, prompting Russia to charge him with calling for Russia's borders to be changed.

His detention led to widespread condemnation from international rights groups, not least because Umerov, 59, suffers from Parkinson's disease and high blood pressure and is diabetic.

"Russia is striving for loyalty," Umerov told AFP in the garden of his house in Bakhchysaray, the main town in the district of the same name of which he was the longtime leader until he resigned when Crimea fell under Moscow's control in 2014.

Failing that, "it would be entirely enough for them if the Crimean Tatars fell silent," he added.

Ruled entirely sane by doctors in the psychiatric hospital, Umerov will now go on trial and faces up to five years in jail.

"The time has come when, for a thought, for an opinion, they will put people on trial and hand them real sentences," Umerov said.

Crimea's Muslim Tatars number some 300,000 -- around 14 percent of the peninsula's population -- although Umerov estimates some 30,000 to 40,000 have left since Russia's annexation.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Ekim 2016, 09:54