Edem Bekirov / Screenshot from ATR

Crimean Tatar activist Edem Bekirov, who has recently been released as part of a major prisoner swap with Russia, has said that Crimean Tatars must fight with a vengeance so that all political prisoners held in Russia return home.

"We must now fight with a vengeance so that all of our fellow citizens return home. Those who are in prison now have set an example to all Crimean Tatars that they don't need to be afraid of anything, we must come to courts [to support the accused]. After all, this is an incredible force. They [the Russian occupying authority] are afraid of us, not we are [afraid of them]. They’re afraid of these young men because they [Russians] haven't broken them and they will never be able to break them," Bekirov said in a video message posted by NGO Crimean Solidarity on Facebook.

Bekirov noted that he would do everything in his power and in every way help the Crimean Tatars, in particular, political prisoners. "They have brought the purity of our people even to the prison wards in which they are held. They've shown the whole world that the Crimean Tatar people are pure, good-natured, peaceful, without aggression or terrorist biases that they want to blame us for," he said.

The released activist expressed support for the relatives of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian political prisoners.

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As UNIAN reported, on December 12, 2018, Russian security forces detained Bekirov at the de-facto border between mainland Ukraine and Russia-occupied Crimea. He was accused of storing, distributing and transporting more than 10 kg of TNT and 190 rounds of live ammo.

Bekirov has a leg amputated, he is diabetic. He earlier suffered a heart attack.

On June 11, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered that the Russian-controlled authorities immediately place Bekirov in hospital with necessary health checks, but he was kept in a detention center.

On June 12, Russia's FSB completed an investigation into Bekirov's case and filed an indictment. He pleaded not guilty.

Bekirov was released on September 7 in the prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia. He returned to Ukraine, but his status in Russia remains that of the accused.

On September 10, he underwent heart surgery in Ukraine.