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Prominent human rights defender Mikhail Savva arrested by FSB

12 April 2013

Press Release 

Source: Yabloko 

Today in Krasnodar FSB officers arrested the prominent human rights defender and Southern Regional Resource Centre board member Mikhail Savva. The arrest follows the sudden search of Savva's apartment, where the activist lives with his family, at six o’clock this morning by Krasnodar Region FSB officers. 

The search lasted six hours and was carried out without a warrant; FSB agents are permitted to conduct operations like this without a court ruling only in exceptional circumstances where the sovereignty of the state, or the lives or health of its citizens are threatened, although how Mikhail Savva could pose such a threat remains a mystery.

According to his wife, during the search the officers confiscated a computer, memory cards, photographs and even old home movies on VHS cassettes, discs, documents, every mobile phone in the apartment, and bank cards, including those belonging to other family members. Copies of Savva's communications to the FSB regarding the events of 14 March were also confiscated. A further search was carried out in the family's garage.

After the search, Savva and his lawyer Andrei Savchenko were taken to the Krasnodar Region FSB offices. At two o'clock in the afternoon, the lawyer told Savva's wife on the phone that her husband was being held for 48 hours prior to a court ruling.

The repressive actions against Savva and the Southern Regional Resource Centre began on 14 March of this year when Krasnodar Region FSB officers carried out a pre-investigation check of the Centre. The FSB officers' actions were justified on the grounds of information concerning improper use of funds from a Ministry of Social Development grant distributed by the Krasnodar regional government. A computer was later confiscated from the Centre's office and several other NGOs were subjected to aggressive checks. Mikhail Savva widely publicised the ways in which these checks were in violation of the law.

On 18 March, as part of the federation-wide campaign of raids on NGOs, representatives of the prosecutor's office visited the Centre's office.

The directors of various legal entities in the region were subjected to questioning and checks at various times until 9 April, motivated by the fact that all of the organizations were subcontractors of the Southern Regional Resource Centre.

On 5 April it was announced that Mikhail Savva had been removed from his post as deputy chair of the region's Gubernatorial Human Rights Council, a move likely in anticipation of his expected arrest.

In three days' time on 15 April, Mikhail Savva is due to give a report at a session of the Presidential Human Rights Council on violations committed during inspections of NGOs in Kuban. It is not impossible that one of the reasons for Savva's sudden detainment was the Krasnodar regional authorities' wish to stop Savva from attending this meeting.

Mikhail Savva is one of the most prominent and, arguably, high-status human rights defenders in Kuban. A doctor of political sciences and a professor at Kuban State University, he served as the chair of the Public Council of the State Agency for Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Region for several years. However, even this has not stopped the FSB officers from pursuing him in flagrant breach of the law.

The Yabloko party's Krasnodar branch chair, Andrei Rudomakha, commented on the arrest: "Today's arrest of Mikhail Savva is a continuation of the wave of repression against civic activists in Krasnodar Region. Vadim Karastelev, Anastasia Denisova, Suren Gazaryan and Evgeny Vitishko and many others have already fallen victim to these repressions. This arrest is one of the most outrageous acts of the campaign against NGOs which has been rolled out across the country under the direct order of Vladimir Putin. I am convinced that this move is not based on any infringements of the law, but purely on the fact that Mikhail Savva had become inconvenient for the authorities.

In addition, the fact that the official reason given for the persecution of these independent NGOs in Krasnodar Region was their receipt of grants from the regional government, i.e. "budgetary funds", is highly symbolic. It shows that, in Russia, it is extremely dangerous to receive grants from one's own government, as it gives the state additional opportunities for reprisals against undesirables."

According to the latest reports, a one-man picket in support of Mikhail Savva was dispersed from outside the Krasnodar Region FSB offices on Ulitsa Mira at half-past five today. The activist carried a placard reading "FSB, you won't lock up everyone in civic society!" In the course of the operation, the coordinator of the Krasnodar regional branch of the Golos Association, David Kankiya, was detained, as well as a FederalPress correspondent in Krasnodar Region, Andrei Koshik. Preliminary information suggests that both detainees are being transported to the Central Internal Affairs Department in the city of Krasnodar, and the detainees fear that all of the video recordings from the protest will be confiscated.