Rustem Ismailov

Rustem Ismailov

“Life with my husband was happy and bright. But perhaps the brightest memories are the births of our children, especially that of our first daughter,” said Fatma Ismailova, the wife of Crimean political prisoner Rustem Ismailov, a figure of the “first Simferopol group” in the “Khizb ut-Takhrir case”.

On October 12, 2016, in several areas of the occupied Crimea, Russian security forces conducted searches and arrests in the homes of Crimean Tatars. Among those taken away was Rustem Ismailov, a builder and father of three. At the time of Rustem's detention, the children were seven, six, and 2.5 years old.

“They came to us early in the morning, the search lasted six hours, then my husband was taken away,” Fatma Ismailova recalls. “During the search, we were not allowed to call a lawyer. Later, when Rustem was in the Simferopol pre-trial detention center and began experiencing health problems, he was not provided with any medical care. When they were taken to the FSB building for investigation, my husband and other Crimean Tatar prisoners had bags put on their heads, they were beaten, and their faces were pressed to the floor of the car.”

Later, Rustem Ismailov was transferred to Rostov-on-Don, where court hearings were held. In June 2019, the Southern District Military Court of Rostov-on-Don sentenced him to 14 years in a maximum-security prison. Rustem Ismailov denies guilt and considers the punishment to be repression on religious grounds. The defense filed an appeal and on December 24, 2019, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “softened” the sentence by six months.

Since February 2020, Rustem Ismailov's whereabouts have been unknown. And only in April, the relatives of the political prisoner learned that he had been transferred to the penitentiary № 2 in the city of Salavat (Bashkortostan, Russian Federation), and before that, he had been in the hospital at the pre-trial detention center in Ufa for two and a half months. In a letter to his wife, Rustem wrote that the conditions in this hospital were the same as in the pre-trial detention center and that in three and a half years of imprisonment, it was in Ufa that he was being held in the worst and most severe conditions of his total stay.

 “It was another blow for me and Mother. Three men have already been taken from our family. They took away my husband in 2016, and both my father and brother in 2019,” says Fatma, “But our Crimean Tatar people and others, committed to following what is happening in the Crimea, have not left us alone.”