Crimean Tatars outraged as Russia charges four with 'terrorism'
Crimean Tatars, a minority Muslim group opposed to Russian annexation, on Friday condemned a new wave of repressions as Russian security forces raided homes and charged four with terrorist offences.
"A new wave of repressions has started in Crimea against Crimean Tatars," the community's governing body, the Mejlis, said in a statement.
Crimean prosecutors said the Russian FSB security service had detained four on suspicion of organising and taking part in the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party.
The rights lawyer representing the detained men, Emil Kurbedinov, told AFP on Friday that all four men had already been charged with organising or joining a terrorist group, for which they could face up to 20 years in jail.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) seeks to re-establish a Caliphate -- a pan-Islamic state based on Islamic rule harking to the medieval era -- and has been banned in Russia since 2003.
Since annexing Crimea in March 2014, Russia has cracked down on the Tatars, an indigenous ethnic group that makes up about 13 percent of its population, many of whom oppose Moscow's rule of the peninsula.
Those detained included Emir-Usein Kuku, a member of the Crimean Contact Group, a rights group that searches for Tatars who have gone missing on the peninsula since its annexation, Tatar community leader Zair Smedlya told AFP.
Also detained was an ethnic Russian who converted to Islam.
In the raids on Thursday, the FSB searched 12 homes, confiscating computers and other electronic devices, Smedlya said.
The sweep took place across the peninsula including around the Black Sea resort towns of Yalta and Alushta.
Security forces detained 13 people for questioning, nine of whom were later released, Smedlya said.
The search saw security forces break the windows of one house with sleeping children inside, the Mejlis said.
Russian security forces were continuing raids on Friday, activists said.
Lawyer Kurbedinov said that he received calls from residents of a village in northeastern Crimea who said several houses were being searched.
Security services on Friday detained one man at his home in a village in southern Crimea on Friday, Tatar community leader Smedlya said.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry on Friday condemned "political repression" against the Crimean Tatars, whom it referred to as Ukrainian citizens, and demanded their immediate release.
Refat Chubarov, a leader of the Tatar community who lives in exile in Kiev condemned "the flurry of searches, detentions and arrests of Crimean Tatars and our neighbours from other ethnic groups who practise Islam" in a Facebook post.
Crimea's chief prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya told pro-Kremlin Kryminform news agency that those detained "are not Tatars, they are a terrorist organisation. We do not divide up people on the basis of their ethnic group."
© 2016 AFP