Memorial Human Rights Centre recognises Astrakhan resident Igor Stenin as political prisoner

posted 15 Jun 2016, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jun 2016, 08:39 ]
9 June 2016

Source: (info)
On 16th May 2016 a resident of Astrakhan who is a Russian nationalist in opposition to the government, Igor Stenin, was sentenced to two years in a low-security penal colony for public calls to extremist activity by means of the Internet (Article 280, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). Stenin appealed against the sentence and, until the sentence enters into legal force, is at liberty but under travel restrictions. If the sentence is upheld, Stenin will have to get to the place where he is to service his sentence himself.

Stenin is accused of posting on the Russian Astrakhans community on Vkontakte a short message calling for the annihilation of “Kremlin occupiers”, and reposting messages under the pseudonym “Sergei Romanov”, beginning with the words “the situation in the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) zone is changing very rapidly” (in fact this was a commentary placed by “Romanov” under the post by Stenin).

The accusation that Stenin reposted material urging extremist action is absurd. It is obvious to any person, even vaguely conversant with the principles of the way the social network Vkontakte works, that the text beginning with the words “the situation in the ATO is changing very rapidly” is a comment from the user “Sergei Romanov” to Stenin’s post. And Stenin’s post and the comment from “Sergei Romanov” can be separately “liked”, which would be impossible if this was a case of reposting. The fact that the user “Sergei Romanov” commented on the post of Stenin was indicated in the initial report by an FSB official of 28th August 2014.

We believe the conviction of an internet user for a commentary posted under their own message on a social networking site is a dangerous precedent (moreover, we note that the commentary itself is a quotation from a post on Facebook by the Ukrainian journalist, Peter Shuklinov which, from our point of view, is not an incitement to extremist action). Obviously, in the case of Stenin, the investigation, prosecution and trial demonstrated an extreme degree of partiality and subjectivity, linked with the political motivation of the criminal case.

The partiality manifested itself in the manifold procedural violations in the course of the trial. For example, the case was illegally held in camera; the judge did not allow the defence to call a specialist who would have explained the principles behind the social network Vkontakte. During the trial, at the request of the prosecutor, a group of second year students from the law faculty of Astrakhan Technical University was called and examined. They gave uniform evidence against Stenin, which we believe the court accepted in an insufficiently critical manner. We demand that the criminal proceedings against Igor Stenin be terminated.

The recognition of a person as a political prisoner or as someone prosecuted for political reasons does not entail the agreement of the Memorial Human Rights Centre with that person’s views or statements, nor support for their actions.

For further details about the case visit the website: Мemorial Human Rights Centre

Translated by Frances Robson