Case of February 26 – a tool for the persecution of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people

February 27, 2023

On February 26, 2014, more than 10,000 residents of Crimea expressed support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Nine years ago, at the initiative of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, a large-scale rally was held in Simferopol, during which Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and pro-Ukrainian citizens opposed the joining of Crimea to the Russian Federation.

In opposition to the pro-Ukrainian activists, pro-Russian people from the Russian Unity party also came out to the rally. As a result, pro-Ukrainian citizens ousted pro-Russian citizens from the square and did not allow the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to make a criminal decision.

Almost a year after these events, the Russian Federation opened a criminal case against some participants of the pro-Ukrainian rally on February 26 for organizing and participating in mass riots on February 26, 2014.

Only the participants of the pro-Ukrainian rally, representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, were brought to criminal responsibility. Among those detained in the framework of the February 26 case were: Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Akhtem Chiyhoz, as well as activists Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Eskender Kantemirov, Talyat Yunusov, Eskender Emirvaliev, Arsen Yunusov and Eskender Nebiev.

Later, the court divided the case of February 26 into two: by separating Akhtem Chiyhoz into a separate trial and Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhi separately. In December 2015, Talat Yunusov was sentenced to 3.5 years of probation, and Eskender Nebiev to two years, also on probation. On September 11, 2017, a Russian court sentenced Akhtem Chiyhoz to eight years in a strict regime colony. On October 25, 2017, the occupants released Akhtem Chiyhoz, convicted in Crimea, and handed him over to Turkey, later he arrived in Kyiv. On June 19, 2018, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermenji received 4 years and 6 months of probation, Arsen Yunusov and Eskender Kantemirov – 4 years of probation, Eskender Emirvaliev – 3 years and 6 months of probation with a probationary period of 3 years each.

Let us emphasize that the case of February 26 is not just a case that is sewn with white threads, which the occupying law enforcement agencies had no right to investigate, but also a tool for persecuting the indigenous Crimean Tatar people and its representative body – the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.