Outlawing Tatar Mejlis in Crimea part of continued 'suppression', Turkey says

Published 27.04.2016 00:00
Updated 27.04.2016 16:38

Ankara has condemned Tuesday's Crimean court decision to prohibit the activities of the legislative body, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, calling it part of a continued campaign of intimidation and suppression.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis was "the democratically elected and legitimate representative and decision-making body" of the Crimean Tatars. "Prohibition of the Mejlis's activities is the latest step taken by Russia that targets the unity and integrity of the Crimean Tatars in the aftermath of the [2014] annexation of the peninsula," the statement said.

"With this decision, Crimean Tatars once again face a new step whereby they are forced to yield and surrender to policies of intimidation and suppression. … "We regret and condemn this decision, which is a new manifestation of both the systematic and collective pressure on the Crimean Tatar community, as well as the blows being struck at the fundamental rights and freedoms of the inhabitants of the peninsula." The ministry concluded by saying that Turkey would continue to support Crimean Tatars' "just struggle" and efforts to put an end to such pressures on their community.

The Supreme Court of Crimea Tuesday banned the Mejlis following a prosecution application lodged in February.

"The nongovernment organization Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars has now been recognized as extremist," Prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya said, as reported by Russia's state-run TASS news agency. "That is, its activity is banned in the Russian Federation in general. Any actions will be assessed as illegal. If Mejlis members or its representatives conduct any activity contrary to the court ruling, they will be brought to responsibility." The Russian Justice Ministry has already put the organization on a list of banned groups, TASS said.

In a written statement, Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the European Council, also condemned the court decision, as did EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. "I am very concerned by the decision taken today by the court of Simferopol to declare the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People an 'extremist organization' and to ban it," he said. He voiced fears the ban would unleash a fresh wave of oppression in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

Jagland highlighted a recent human rights report issued by the council that said: "Qualifying the Mejlis as an extremist organization would considerably increase the risk of further alienation of the Crimean Tatar community."

Refat Chubarov, president of the Mejlis, told a news conference that the body would continue working from Kiev and condemned the "unlawful" decision.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry also criticized the judgment as a "violation of human rights."

The Mejlis is the representative and executive body of Crimean Tatars and has 33 members located in Simferopol.

Since Russia's annexation of Crimea, the region's Crimean Tatar minority has complained of repression, arbitrary arrests and detentions.

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