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Crimean Tatar leaders released, given over to Turkey

Ilmi Umerov and Ahtem Chiygoz sent from Crimea to Ankara by plane.

Russian occupation authorities released deputy heads of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz to Turkey, leader of Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev told Ukrainska Pravda.

The two Mejlis leaders were sent to Ankara by plane.

The handover of Umerov and Chiygoz was made possible thanks to agreements reached during the visit of Turkish President Recep Erdogan to Ukraine.

The lawyer for the two political prisoners, Mykola Polozov confirmed this news in a Facebook release.

"What has been awaited for so long finally happened. Another two hostages, two Ukrainian political prisoners are freed. Ahtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umer, the fearless heroes of Crimean Tatar people are exempt from criminal prosecution today," the lawyer wrote.

Chiygoz was the main defendant in the loudest and protracted criminal trial in the peninsula. As the then spokesman for the Investigative Committee of Russia, Vladimir Markin, has stated Chiygoz was arrested "on suspicion of organizing and participating in mass disorders". Markin referred to 26 February, 2014 protest rally opposite the building of Crimean parliament in Simferopol. Chiygoz was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison under Part 1, Article 212 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Umerov was charged of inciting separatism for his words that Crimea should be Ukrainian. He said this on March 2016 during an appearance on ATR TV channel. This address was recorded and posted on the Internet, after which Russian authorities charged Umerov of public calls for actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.