It is a year and a half since Chiygoz is in a prison. His case began to be considered in the "court" only last week.
Chiygoz remains the most well-known Crimean Tatar political prisoners, however, his name will be unfamiliar to many of those who heard about the release of Afanasiev and knows the profession of Sentsov.
Perhaps, a year and a half in a prison is not enough to become famous in the country, whose interests he defended, – you need to wait for a severe indictment.
Akhtem Chiygoz was arrested on January 29, 2015. During the day he came by himself for questioning to the State Investigative Committee in Crimea, and in the evening illegitimate "Kyiv District Court of Simferopol" issued for him measure of restraint in the form of detention for three months.
Chiygoz was charged on p.1. Article 212 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation of the organization of mass disorders accompanied by violence and destruction of property. From four to ten years. The state prosecutor acted "the prosecutor of Crimea" Natalia Poklonskaya herself.
We are talking about the events of February 26, 2014, when under the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea in Simferopol two mass rallies — supporters of indivisible Ukraine and of pro-Russian activists were held.
Besides Chiygoz, they try to prosecute five Crimean Tatars, who are accused of participation in most of these riots: Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Eskender Kantemirov, Arsen Yunusov and Eskender Emirvaliev. The first two ones are in custody for over a year. Another two of the Crimean Tatars – Eskender Nebiev and Talat Yunusov are already convicted and sentenced to probation.
In February 2016, two years after the events, "court" returned the case to prosecutors for further investigation. It was given five months to Crimean "Prosecutor's Office" to eradicate deficiencies. All this time Chiygoz, Asanov and Degermendzhi were remained in custody.
On July 20th finally preliminary hearing closed to the public started. "The Supreme Court of Crimea", proposed to divide the case: to judge Chiygoz separately from the other defendants.
— To make it clear: 80 victims and witnesses — so the case could drag on for years. They will question maximum two witnesses per day, — one of the lawyers of Chiygoz Emil Kurbedinov says.
— It was the education by the smoke, — 30-year-old Crimean Aziz tells about the 26th of February 2014.
Two and a half years ago, he was one of the drops in the sea of ten thousand of supporters of Ukraine’s integrity who gathered at the walls of the Supreme Council of Crimea in order to prevent a possible session of the Crimean parliament, where the anti-Ukrainian desicions could be made. There were also several thousand Russian patriots, coordinated by Sergei Aksionov, at that time he was the head of the small deputy group in the Crimean parliament.
As a direct participant in those events Aziz prefers to hide his real name in order to protect himself from the repression of the Russian machine and to protect his relatives. <...>
If the day of February 26 was a day of resistance (in Ukraine this date is now officially recognized as the Day of the Russian aggression resistance), then the evening was undoubtedly the evening of euphoria. Crimea was standing on the threshold of a new future in the updated country.
Just in a few hours Russian troops seized the building of the Crimean government and parliament. And thousands of people will always remember what they were doing on the 27th of February 2014, when the TV broadcasted clumsy attempts to interpret what was happening.
At the presidium (of the Mejlis – Translator.) a decision to hold rally under the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was made. Videos and photos taken the next day, show that the warring parties had two leaders: the head of Mejlis Refat Chubarov and the head of the Supreme Council of Crimea Sergej Aksionov. There are also videos with Chiygoz on which he calms overly emotional compatriots.
— Victims, witnesses and video from the rally are all the prosecution has, — the lawyer Kurbedinov says. — But you understand, Akhtem Chiygoz is accused of organizing mass riots. So, there must be at least a speaking of Chiygoz — for an hour, a day, a week before the event, where he negotiates with someone arranges for the preparation of the riots. There is no such speaking. <...> The problem of defense is to show absolute juridical inconsistency of the case. If we show it, everybody will understand that this is a purely political case.
Actually human rights center "Memorial" has already recognized Chiygoz, Asanov and Degermendzhi as political prisoners.
"Testimonies of witness (including the secret ones), which tell about the involvement of Chiygoz in this hypothetical organization of disorders, look contradictory and often implausible: for example, Sergej Aksionov says that Chiygoz was calling for peace into a megaphone, and without a megaphone he quietly gave commands to use a violence. However, then it is unclear how he could be heard in an intense noise. At the same time, the investigation ignored the well-known videos, which show that Chiygoz urged people to keep calm and tried to break up the fight", – the message of "Memorial" says.
Russian Procuracy accuses Akhtem Chiygoz of activities that were carried out in Ukraine, by Ukrainian citizen against other Ukrainian citizens. This scheme was already worked out in the case of Ukrainian Oleksandr Kostenko, who was convicted by a Russian court to 4 years 2 months for a stone thrown into "Berkut" employee in Kyiv at the time of the Revolution of dignity.
Russian Procuracy prosecutes only the Crimean Tatars. Moreover, any Crimean Tatar is not listed among the victims.
The question how the Russians will try to explain these facts, causes heavy laughter of Kurbedinov.
— This question is interesting for everybody, first for all practicing lawyers and professors of criminal law, — he says.
The prosecution is trying to explain the right of the Russian justice system to the response by the fact that the rally of February 26 was aimed against Russian interests. Bringing to justice Crimeans of only one nationality was explained by Natalia Poklonskaya herself in an interview with "Novaya Gazeta": the "Russian Unity" had permission to rally, but Mejlis did not. <...>
First Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis 36-year-old Dzhelial is a young blood in the leadership of the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, after many years of stagnation, with reliable staff. Today this political scientist, a school teacher and broadcaster is the main embodiment of the Mejlis in Crimea. Dzhelial spreads the information on violations of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, gives comments to Ukrainian media and protects the right of Mejlis to exist in Crimean pseudo court...
In fact, Dzhelial assumed the role which Akhtem Chiygoz played until February 2015.
If you we recall the events of the first year of annexation, it is possible to understand why exactly Chiygoz got under the repressive machine.
— In 2014 we organized many pickets, along the roads, near military units. Akhtem was actively involved in the organization of these events. He was very active, — Umerov approves.
In 2014 two Crimean Tatar leaders were deprived of Crimea. In May people's deputy Mustafa Dzhemilev was not allowed to the peninsula. In June Poklonskaya read out a decree of prohibition on entry for the head of Mejlis Refat Chubarov.
— Chubarov had five deputies. According to the status they were equal, but in fact Akhtem was the leader among them. After Refat and Mustafa-aga were not allowed to the homeland, Akhtem remained the number one, — Umerov explains.
Ban on entry to Crimea for Dzhemilev and Chubarov was a separate item of the Russian plan: a collaborator must have headed the Mejlis. In this case the representative body of indigenous people of Crimea could call the annexation as joining, adding a gold coin into a piggy bank of the Kremlin's foreign policy.
Carrying out hostile takeover of the Mejlis needed getting on their side 17 out of 33 of Mejlis members. Yes, they could not elect a new chairman as he was elected on the national congress of the Crimean Tatars Kurultai. However, they could find a lot of loopholes.
But Akhtem Chiygoz was a major obstacle in this way.
From a conversation with Nariman Dzhelial
— How exactly did Chiygoz interfere with Russians?
— They thought that Chiygoz intimidates Mejlis members, keeps them in a certain dissenting state. He was decided to turn away. And at the same time to choose him as exponential victim for punishment: do not stick your head out, otherwise it will be like that.
— And why did the plans of the incorporation of the Mejlis failed?
— They miscalculated. They thought Chiygoz is a kind of central link. They failed to realize that the majority of the members of the Mejlis were just standing on the same positions as he was: that we should not be incorporated.
After his arrest people from the team of Ilyasov and other began to come (Crimean Tatars belonging to the Russian authorities structures in Crimea, - Ed.). They said: let's work together, and we will solve all the problems, including the release of Chiygoz.
A year after the arrest of Chiygoz Russian authorities reduced the attempts to convert the Mejlis in their faith. The Kremlin went the other way: illegal "Supreme Court of Crimea" recognized Mejlis as an extremist organization and banned its activities in Russia.
It dealt a severe blow to the Crimean Tatar national movement.
"Our people had experienced harsh ordeals, and we passed them with honor! We cannot be broken by prisons and labor camps! We cannot be cowed by searches and arrests! We cannot be deceived by puppets! Crimea will never be without Crimean Tatars!" — he wrote in his appeal from prison.
There are enough unbroken people in the history of the national movement of the Crimean Tatars, strong characters of whom Chiygoz may be inspired by.
And his name is also in this history now.
In its most recent volume.