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July 2010

Trial of Samodurov and Erofeev
On 12/7 a Moscow court convicted art curators Yury Samodurov and Andrei Erofeev of inciting religious hatred by organizing a Forbidden Art exhibition in 2007. Samodurov was fined 200,000 roubles ($6,500) and Erofeev 150,000 roubles ($4,900). On 5/7 a group of Russian artists and cultural figures had addressed an open letter to President Medvedev calling for an end to the prosecution. On 9/7 more than 300 people had taken part in a Moscow rally in support of the two men.

On 29/7 President Medvedev signed into law a bill giving the FSB the power to caution individuals for purposes of crime prevention. The bill had passed its final reading in the State Duma on 16/7 and was approved on 19/7 by the Federation Council. In an open letter of 15/7, leading human rights defenders had condemned the bill as ‘extremely dangerous’.

Official Human Rights Bodies
On 30/7 Ella Pamfilova, chair of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, resigned. On 13/7 Memorial Human Rights Centre had condemned the propaganda campaign against Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, and said it resembled Soviet era campaigns. On 6/7 the Federation Council had criticized as excessively negative the annual report of federal Human Rights Ombudsman Lukin.

North Caucasus
On 8/7 Memorial said Chechen President Kadyrov’s words describing Memorial staff as enemies of the people, the law and the state, were ‘a direct and clear-cut threat.’ Following Kadyrov’s remarks, on 20/7 members of the Presidential Council on Civil Society & Human Rights appealed to President Medvedev to protect colleagues in Chechnya. On 6/7 Moscow police brought criminal charges against Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial rights group, for slander for linking Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to kidnappings and killings in Chechnya. The case was passed to the court on 30/7. President Dmitry Medvedev said on 15/7 the killer of Natalya Estemirova has been identified and an international search was under way, but gave no further information. Amnesty International questioned whether the Russian authorities had the political will to ensure a timely, effective and impartial investigation into the murder of Natalia Estemirova.

Right of Assembly
As reported on 5/7, the Constitutional Court ruled that local authorities under current law have the right to change the place of a demonstration or rally. On 31 July about 1000 people took part in a rally, banned by Moscow authorities, on Triumphal Square in support of freedom of assembly (Article 31 of the Russian Constitution). Police arrested about 100 participants, including Boris Nemtsov, Konstantin Kosyakin and Evgeniya Chirikova. On 31 July in St. Petersburg at a similar, banned, rally, police arrested about 60 demonstrators. Reports said police behaviour in St Petersburg was particularly violent.

Yulia Privedennaya
A Moscow region court on 28/7 gave a 4 1/2-year suspended sentence to Yulia Privedennaya, controversially convicting her of leading a militant group, depriving people of freedom and torturing them.

Anti-extremism law
The Federal Mass Media Inspection Service issued Vedomosti a formal warning for promoting extremism (1/7) by publishing an article by Maya Kucherskaya on 9/4 that allegedly justified terrorist activity. As reported on 26/7, prosecutors opened a criminal case against a Scientology centre in Shchelkovo near Moscow on charges of inciting hatred.

Igor Sutyagin
On 8/7 Igor Sutyagin, sentenced in 2004 to 15 years in prison on charges of espionage, was pardoned and then deported from Russia to Vienna as part of a spy swap with the USA. As a condition for his pardon, Sutyagin signed a statement admitting his guilt. Sutyagin, who travelled to the UK, said on 22/7 he intended to return home from Britain.