Memorial recognizes Oksana Sevastidi, sentenced for sending text message, as a political prisoner

posted 13 Feb 2017, 02:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 02:53 ]
3 February 2017

Source: [original source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Oksana Sevastidi, a Sochi resident, has been sentenced to seven years in a prison colony under Article 275 (treason) of the Russian Criminal Code for sending a Georgian friend, at his request, two text messages referring to the military ‘materiel’ she had seen on the streets before the Russian-Georgian war.

The information that she sent was accessible to an unlimited number of people, and Sevastidi was not aware that it was secret. We consider it unacceptable to make civilians answerable for military secrets, and even more so to criminalize the sharing with foreigners of what can be seen on the streets.

Should such a practice become the norm, it would have catastrophic consequences for human rights in Russia.

Previously, in a similar case, Ekaterina Kharebava, a Georgian citizen living in Sochi received a seven-year sentence. Memorial recognized her as a political prisoner. In the summer of 2016 she was freed as part of an exchange with Georgia. According to reports, the case of Aniko Kesyan, another resident of Sochi, sentenced to eight years, is similar to those of the above. The case involving the Sochi resident, Petr Parpulov, whom we also consider a political prisoner, is somewhat different. However, he was also convicted for being in touch with an acquaintance in Georgia and passing on secret information.

All these cases were brought by one and the same FSB investigator, Roman Troyan, and the verdicts pronounced by one and the same judge of Krasnodar region court, Vladimir Kobzev.

In recent years no fewer than 10 sentences for treason and espionage have been handed down by this court, and we do not exclude the possibility that we shall learn of new unlawful convictions. It seems as though there is a local FSB conveyor belt, which is engaged in creating an appearance of combating threats to the State.

Oksana Sevastidi was effectively deprived of legal aid. Despite the fact that she hired a defence lawyer, the latter clearly acted in the interests of the investigator: he did not submit submit petitions to the court on her behalf, he did not insist on questioning the witnesses, and, most important of all, only lodged an appeal long after the date for an appeal had expired. 

In October 2016 Sevastidi wrote a letter to Memorial Human Rights Centre with a request for help. At the same time her mother turned to ‘Team 29’, a human rights organization working on several cases involving alleged espionage. 

We have agreed to work together with lawyers from ‘Team 29’ on this case. Ivan Pavlov and Evgeny Smirnov submitted a petition to have the date for the lodging of an appeal extended, but this was refused. The defence lawyers are continuing to use all available legal mechanisms to obtain a review of the conviction, however Sevastidi’s right to a defence continues to be infringed in the crudest fashion.

We demand that Oksana Sevastidi’s appeal be considered, and the conviction overturned.

For more information about the case of Oksana Sevastidi, see HERE

Translated by Mary McAuley