Lawyer Danilovich Ayder Azamatov has spent the last 12 days looking for her in pre-trial detention centers across the peninsula. He told CNN that, like her friends and family, he was repeatedly turned down and authorities said they had no information on Danilovich.
Everything changed on Wednesday afternoon.
“We again went to the pre-trial detention center in Simferopol, and they finally told me that Irina was there. We were not allowed to talk or see each other,” he said.
Azamatov told CNN he was given documents showing that Danilovich was charged with illegal handling of explosives or explosive devices, a charge she denies.
Danilovich’s father Bronislav told the Krym.Realii news site, affiliated with Radio Liberty, that his daughter went missing on the morning of April 29 while working her shift at a medical facility in Koktebel in southeastern Crimea.
Around the same time, according to Azamatov, members of the Russian special forces in balaclavas came to the house that Danilovich shares with his parents in the village of Vladislavovka near Feodosia. Vladislavovka is located about 34 km from Koktebel.
He told CNN that officials who ransacked the family’s home told her father that she had been sentenced to 10 days in administrative detention for “giving unclassified information to a foreign country.”
However, they refused to hand over any documents.
Crimean authorities were not available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
When CNN inquired about Danilovich on Tuesday, Crimean authorities declined to comment. An officer on duty at the prosecutor’s office in Russian-occupied Crimea turned CNN over to authorities in Danilovich’s hometown.
When CNN called the Feodosiya police station on Tuesday, the person who answered the call said he knew nothing about the case and hung up.
The Interior Ministry of Russian-occupied Crimea did not respond to a written request for comment. The phone number listed on the site is not available.
Working as a citizen journalist, Danilovich exposed problems in the Crimean healthcare system, including its response to the coronavirus pandemic. She wrote for a number of Ukrainian media outlets and posted her findings on Facebook.
The human rights organization Krym SOS said on Wednesday that Danilovich faces up to eight years in prison.
“Human rights activists are now investigating whether there was falsification of testimony. It is known that Irina does not admit her guilt and refused to testify, ”the group said in a statement.
He added that the case had “all the elements of an enforced disappearance”.
The term “enforced disappearance” describes disappearances committed either by government officials or others acting on behalf of or with the support of government agencies, followed by a refusal to reveal the fate and whereabouts of the individual.
According to the UN, because the authorities refuse to acknowledge the detention, the victim has no legal recourse and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
The UN says the practice is often used as a strategy to spread terror in society.
The Danilovich case is the latest in a string of disappearances of activists, journalists and ordinary citizens registered in Crimea over the past decade.
The UN said that these were mostly abductions and kidnappings, and some of the victims – 39 men and four women – were ill-treated and tortured. Eleven men were missing and one man remained in custody at the time of writing.
The UN said they were unable to document prosecutions in any of these cases.
Anna Chernova of CNN contributed to the story.