Crimea/Russia: Crimean Attorneys Don’t Have It Easy

April 24, 2017

After the Russian annexation, few Crimean law professionals are eager to take on sensitive, politically charged cases. From Euroradio.

Three years after the March 2014 events, the Kremlin insists that Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. Kyiv’s official stance is that the Crimean peninsula is a temporarily occupied territory. Crimean activists, politicians, and citizens who oppose the annexation of Crimea have been tried for violating Russian law. The Russian organization Memorial considers them political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. Given the legal status of the peninsula, attorneys cannot prove they are not guilty or perform their professional duties in general without difficulty.

We meet lawyer Emil Kurbedinov next to his small office in the center of Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. We have to talk in the street, as his clients took all the free seats in his office. People come to him with different issues asking for help, but Kurbedinov prefers to defend those detained on political charges, such as those people who do not think that Crimea is Russian. As a result, the lawyer recently spent 10 days under administrative arrest. Policemen searched his office and seized documents containing classified judicial information. This happened because Kurbedinov dared to use his phone to film a search that took place in the office of one of his fellow citizens. Before that, the lawyer had received hints from “high-ranking people” that he should quit legal practice.

“From the very beginning we tried to shed light on all cases we considered politically motivated,” Kurbedinov explains. “We wanted people, both here and abroad, to see how trials took place, how the evidence was presented, and so on. That bothered very much those who held the trials, the prosecution.”

Among Kurbedinov’s clients are leaders of the Mejlis [the Crimean parliament outlawed by Russia as an “extremist” organization in 2016] who have been accused of calls to “violate the territorial integrity of Russia.”


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