Memorial Human Rights Centre: Charges against activists Evgeny Kurakin and Nataliya Lutovinova politically motivated

posted 22 May 2017, 06:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 06:57 ]
16 May 2017


Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared that activists Evgeny Kurakin and Natalia Lutovinova, both from the town of Reutov near Moscow, are being prosecuted for political reasons.

Human rights defenders consider that the two activists from the 'Parkovaya no.8' co-ownership housing association in Reutov in the Moscow region are being prosecuted in connection with their activism to protect residents' rights and the rights of their neighbours.

Evgeny Kurakin was charged under the Russian Federation's Criminal Code, Article 159, Part 4 (especially large-scale fraud) and is waiting for his case to have a repeat hearing in court. He was in custody from 28 February 2014 to 9 July 2015, after which he was released on bail. On 16 March 2017 Natalia Lutovinova was sentenced to 302 hours of compulsory labour under Article 330, Part 1 (forcible assertion of private rights). On 1 March 2017 she was taken into detention and on 6 March she was released, having signed a written undertaking not to travel.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, having analysed the criminal investigation into Evgeny Kurakin and his case file, has concluded that the prosecution was politically motivated. All the evidence suggests that Evgeny Kurakin is completely innocent of the crime with which he is charged.

"The fact that the court decided to send the file back to the prosecutors after an unprecedentedly long hearing of the case can be seen as a de facto acquittal of Kurakin. In effect, the court admitted that Kurakin was held in a pre-trial detention centre for 18 months and that for 3½ years he has had the status of being a defendant, even though there has not even been a formal investigation into exactly which of his actions could be found to be fraudulent".

"As for Natalia Lutovinova, the pre-trial detention imposed on her on 1 March 2017 was disproportionate to the danger to society represented by the crime of which she was accused. According to her defence lawyer, Lutovinova was given a short-term detention solely in order to obtain evidence against Evgeny Kurakin while she was in the detention centre, given that Kurakin's file had previously been sent back to prosecutors", comments Memorial Human Rights Centre.

"The outrageous thing is the fact that the accused [Lutovinova] was held in custody despite her alleged offence being minor and not one generally punishable by imprisonment. We should note that Lutovinova had not attempted to go into hiding from the court: she had answered telephone calls and provided medical certificates on occasions when she has been unable to attend court sessions, so her arrest is absolutely ungrounded", say experts at Memorial.

"In our view, disputes over issues such as the regulations governing payment of communal services, the housing association's competence to reach decisions and the question of who should have leadership status, should be decided without involving the security forces and criminal law", they state.

Recognising people as political prisoners or as people who are charged for political motives does not signify that Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with their views or statements, nor that it approves of their statements or actions.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts