Political prisoner Rafis Kashapov complains to Constitutional Court over Criminal Code article “On separatism”

posted 10 Feb 2017, 09:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 05:07 ]
26 January 2017

Source: HRO.org

Rafis Kashapov, head of the All-Tatar Public Centre in Naberezhnye Chelny [Tatarstan’s second largest city], has lodged a complaint with Russia’s Constitutional Court over Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. This article defines incitement to separatism as a criminal act, even if it includes no incitement to violence.

[Internet daily] Grani.ru, quoting [business daily] Vedomosti, reported Kashapov’s lawyer Ramil’ Akhmetgaliev as announcing that the complaint had been lodged.

Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code entered into force in May 2014. So far, six people have been convicted under this article, one of whom has been consigned to compulsory [medical] treatment. Akhmetgaliev said that all six cases are included in the complaint.

Kashapov’s complaint argues that these six cases show that the courts are enforcing this article of the Criminal Code in a way that makes possible the prosecution of people for non-violent statements. Essentially, Kashapov argues, this results in a ban on any discussion of Russia’s territorial integrity. This in turn does not meet the legal requirement that restrictions that are imposed should be both necessary and proportional. The text of the appeal argues that public criticism plays an important role in a democratic society and does not pose a danger to the public interest, even if it offends certain specific individuals.

Kashapov has also made an application to the European Court of Human Rights, as has Darya Polyudova, an activist from Krasnodar who was convicted under the same article. It is likely that the two complaints will be considered together.

Kashapov was arrested in December 2014 for posting four messages on the Internet in which he criticised Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine. On 15 September 2015, Judge Dan Shakurov of Naberezhnye Chelny city court sentenced the civic activist to three years in a general labour colony under Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code (“inciting hatred or enmity”) and Article 280.1.2 (“public calls for separatism made over the Internet”). This was the first time a Russian court had handed down a judgement under Article 280.1 "on separatism.”

Kashapov did not deny posting the items on the Internet. He did however deny that this constituted a criminal act. Speaking at the end of his trial, he asserted that “the case has been completely fabricated by the FSB."

On 13 November, Tatarstan’s Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower court in the main but removed one additional punishment that had been imposed on Kashapov, that is, a two-year ban on the use of social networks after he is released from the colony.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, based in Moscow, has recognised Rafis Kashapov as a political prisoner. See their summary of his case here: http://memohrc.org/special-projects/delo-kashapova

Translated by Elizabeth Teague