18:43 Jun. 26, 2016
"It is not a crime to be a Crimean Muslim", activists claim
On June 26, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar activists staged a rally in Kyiv's centre (Independence Square) in support of the Crimean Muslims who are under investigation in the Kremlin-annexed Crimea and Russia.
The rally was organized by the public initiative Euromaidan.SOS as part of the bigger campaign LetMyPeopleGo.
According to organizers, the event is timed with the 40th birthday of Crimean activist and human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku, who is held in Crimea.
The campaign featured Mejlis Chairman Refat Chubarov, Crimea-born and political prisoner Hennadiy Afanasyev (who was recently released and brought back to Ukraine from Russia), chairman of the Crimean Tatar resource centre Eskender Bariev, and others.
Currently 14 Crimean Tatars are under investigation. Most of them are imprisoned on suspicion for being involved in the so-called 'February 26' case*. Another four Crimean Tatars are charged of terrorism and involvement in the Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. Its activities are banned in Russia.
Ukraine's Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) officially declared February 20, 2014, a beginning of Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol. Numerous world leaders strongly condemned the illegal annexation and launched a range of economic sanctions against Russia.
Despite the overall resentment, Moscow rejects the notion "occupation", naming its deeds instead "a renewal of historical justice".
Russia has been heavily criticized by international rights groups and Western governments for its treatment of Crimea's indigenous Turkic-speaking people since Moscow annexed the peninsula in March 2014. Arrests, disappearances, and killings of Crimean Tatars have been reported.