Portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin are seen in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 11, 2022. Russian authorities in Crimea recently sentenced journalist Remzi Bekirov to 19 years in prison. (Reuters/Alexey Pavlishak)

Russian court sentences Crimean journalist Remzi Bekirov to 19 years in prison

New York, March 11, 2022 – In response to Russia’s recent sentencing of Crimean journalist Remzi Bekirov to 19 years in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“Russian authorities should immediately release Remzi Bekirov and all other Crimean journalists who became hostages of an occupying force in their homeland,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Bekirov and other Crimean Tatar journalists did nothing but cover alleged human rights abuses against their ethnic group, and must be freed at once.”

On Thursday, March 10, the Southern District Military Court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Bekirov, a correspondent for the independent news website Grani, to 19 years in prison for allegedly organizing the activities of a terrorist organization, a charge Bekirov denied, according to his employer and media reports. The court ruled that Bekirov will serve the first five years of his sentence in a prison, and the other 14 years in a strict-security prison colony, those reports said.

CPJ was unable to immediately confirm whether Bekirov could or planned to appeal his sentence.

Russian law enforcement detained Bekirov on March 27, 2019, in Rostov-on-Don along with another Crimean journalist, Osman Arifmemetov, according to CPJ’s research. When CPJ conducted its December 2021 prison census, Russia had imprisoned at least four journalists, including Bekirov and Arifmemetov, in occupied Crimea in retaliation for their work.

Bekirov, who is an ethnic Crimean Tatar, livestreamed reporting from Russian authorities’ raids and trials of Crimean Tatars, and also interviewed activists with the human rights group Crimean Solidarity, which he posted the group’s YouTube channel.

Last month, Russian authorities in Crimea sentenced Vladislav Yesypenko, a correspondent for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, to six years in prison in retaliation for his reporting on social and environmental issues, as CPJ documented at the time.