World Bulletin / News Desk
The European Union on Thursday voiced concern about the ongoing intimidation of the Crimean Tatar people by Russian authorities in Crimea after they were ordered to leave their Mejlis (parliament) building following a raid by FSB officers.
Michael Mann, spokesman for EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, said in a statement that the eviction of the Crimean Tatars from their headquarters in Simferopol was "worrying."
"These are not isolated events and reflect the disturbing human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula. The precarious situation of the minority groups in Crimea, as documented in the relevant OSCE and UN reports, remains of serious concern. We call once again for full respect of all fundamental rights and freedoms in Crimea and reiterate that the EU does not recognize its annexation," Mann added.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, which was founded in 1991 to act as a representative body for Crimean Tatars after their return from almost five decades in exile, was the subject of a thorough search by Russian FSB agents and armed police on September 16 in which documents, protocols, USB flash cards, Islamic literature and computers were seized.
Crimea's pro-Russian acting head Sergey Aksyonov told ITAR- TASS that the search was conducted after the authorities received “signals about banned literature” in the building.
“In this case, the special forces [FSB] were doing their job, according to instructions. There were signals about banned literature and other materials,” Aksyonov said, referring to the extension of an illegal texts ban from Russia to Crimea, which has outlawed a number of Islamic books that were deemed lawful when Crimea was ruled by Ukraine.
Following the raid, the Crimean Tatar community was given 12 hours to clear out their Mejlis building, which is being leased by the Crimea Fund charity for the Crimean Tatar people, or else be evicted by force.
On Thursday, the Crimea Fund was fined 50,000 rubles for failure to meet the eviction deadline and given a further 24 hours to leave after an order by the Central District Court of Simferopol prohibited the charity from carrying out any of its powers as owner of the Mejlis headquarters and six other addresses, including its right to lease or sell the properties. If the Fund fails to comply with this court order, it could face criminal prosecution.
Qirim News Agency reported that Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev called the seizure of Crimea Fund building, “a robbery raid”.
“This was a raid. They are making absurd claims about some decision they made, some court, which we know nothing about. Now it was found out that the judge of the court is absent on leave. It is frankly a robbery raid,” Jemilev said in an interview.
“I hope people react to the situation, but they are so frightened. They cannot even come to the Mejlis building while is it being raided. [The FSB officers] take photos, may conduct searches or fine them,” he noted.
Crimean Tatar Mejlis head Refat Chubarov, who is living in exile in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said that the Crimean Tatar people have got no choice but to comply with the demands of the authorities.
“We have no strength to counteract Crimean authorities. The decision of the 'court' reads that if we refuse [to leave the building], we will be evicted from there by force,” Chubarov confirmed to Qirim News Agency.
“There is only one structure in Crimea which is able to unite people who disagree with Crimea's occupation. Crimean authorities want to crush the Mejlis, to destroy and deprive it of dignity and honor,” Chubarov stated.
However, the defiant leader added that the Crimean Tatar people were not in need of a building to continue functioning as a community.
CRIMEAN TATARS 'TARGETED'
Since the annexation in March, around 3,000 Crimean Tatars have left the peninsula for mainland Ukraine.
The U.N. has also pointed to the erosion of human rights in Crimea, which remains under the occupation of pro-Russian militias who particularly threaten the Crimean Tatars.
Crimean Tatars have complained that they have been targeted for speaking their Turkic language in public and have had their homes marked by pro-Russian militiamen.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) was also threatened with closure after they organized protests for former Mejlis head Mustafa Jemilev, who has been barred from entering the peninsula for five years along with current leader Refat Chubarov.
Earlier this month, Qirim News Agency general coordinator Ismet Yuksel was also given the same five-year ban.
The Crimean Tatars have largely opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, fearing a repeat of the events of 1944 when they were completely expelled as part of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's policy.
They gradually started returning in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, but still live as a minority in their homeland as they were displaced by ethnic Russian settlers who migrated there later on.
Since the annexation, Russia has been granting Russian citizenship to the people of Crimea in replacement of their Ukrainian nationality. Crimean Tatars, who have campaigned to reject Russian citizenship, reserve the right to remain as Ukrainian citizens, but will by default become foreigners in their homeland.Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2014, 11:27