Legal Case of the Week

Legal Case of the Week: Constitutional Court refuses to hear Aleksei Navalny's complaint over election ban

posted 22 Jan 2018, 06:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Jan 2018, 08:20 ]

On 19 January 2018, the Constitutional Court refused to consider a complaint brought by opposition politician Aleksei Navalny concerning the ruling by the Central Electoral Commission on 25 Decemer 2017 that he cannot run in the presidential election to take place in March this year because of an unspent 
criminal conviction. As RFE/RL has reported, Ivan Zhdanov, the lawyer acting for Navalny, said the complaint "charged that laws on Russia's presidential election contradict the country's constitution." Navalny claims that the conviction was politically motivated and unlawful, being based on fabricated evidence. 

In other developments this week, as OVD-Info has reported, Navalny's campaign activists came under pressure in a number of regions:

"In Pskov. the FSB ordered that leaflets be seized from the local [Navalny] campaign headquarters. In Murmansk, 10,000 leaflets were seized and the campaign coordinator arrested. In St. Petersburg a volunteer was summoned “for a chat" about leaflets that had been sent to Murmansk. Police visited the Navalny campaign headquarters in Penza (where leaflets were also seized), Novgorod and Cheboksary. During the seizure of leaflets in Penza, police taped over two closed-circuit video cameras on the premises. Police also seized Voters’ Boycott leaflets in Kaluga, Smolensk, St Petersburg and Izhevsk. The Navalny campaign’s Samara headquarters was trashed by police, who of course also seized leaflets there."

Furthermore, on 15 January, the Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit with a Moscow court to close down the Fifth Season of the Year Foundation, which, as RFE/RL reports, is "the legal entity that officially employs workers of Navalny’s campaign offices across Russia, receives financial contributions from supporters, and concludes lease agreements and other deals on behalf of Navalny's campaign."

'Russian Court Refuses To Hear Navalny's Election Complaint,' RFE/RL, 19 January 2018
'OVD-Weekly Bulletin No. 38,' Rights in Russia, 19 January 2018
'Police In Russia Harass Navalny Supporters, Seize Leaflets,' RFE/RL, 18 January 2018
'Russian Authorities Seek Closure Of Key Navalny Campaign Foundation,' RFE/RL, 15 January 2018

Photograph of Constitutional Court by A.S.Savin via Wikipedia

Legal Case of the Week: Court orders disbandment of Interregional Labour Union of Automobile Workers

posted 15 Jan 2018, 13:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jan 2018, 13:10 ]

On 10 January 2018, a St. Petersburg court disbanded the Interregional Labour Union of Automobile Workers over accusations it received funding from abroad,
The Moscow Times, reported: "A St. Petersburg court has disbanded one of Russia’s largest labor unions over accusations that it received funding from abroad.  The Interregional Labor Union of Automobile Workers (MPRA) was one of Russia's last remaining major unions with 3,000 members across 40 regions. The union gained prominence after staging a 25-day-long strike at a Ford assembly plant outside St. Petersburg in 2007. The St. Petersburg City Court ruled in favor of the MPRA’s dissolution on Wednesday, siding with the city prosecutor’s office."

The prosecutor's office alleged that the union was engaged in political activity, campaigned to change legislation, and had received foreign funding. While prosecutors alleged the Union had received over 32 million roubles from an international union federation based in Switzerland, the MPRA stated that it had received only $6,000. The MPRA said it would appeal against the decision. 

In a statement published online on 11 January 2018, the MPRA said it would "do everything it can to ensure that the Supreme Court rescinds this shameful and catastrophic decision,” The Moscow Times reports. 

'Major Russian Labor Union Disbanded by Court For Foreign Ties,' The Moscow Times, 11 January 2018
"Заявление МПРА о продолжении законной деятельности," Межрегиональный Профсоюз Рабочая Ассоциация, 11 January 2018

Legal Case of the Week: Mother fined for teenager's participation in 26 March demonstration in Volgograd

posted 3 Jul 2017, 08:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jul 2017, 10:39 ]

On 28 June 2016, a court in Volgograd upheld a 10,000 rouble fine imposed on the mother of a teenager who took part in a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny on March 26. Caucasian Knot reports that on 26 March, approximately 30 people were detained of between 800-1,000 who took part in an anti-corruption rally in Volgograd. Most of those who took part were fined 10,000 immediately. The trials of a number of protesters were postponed. In the upshot, Aleksei Volkov, the organizer of the rally and coordinator of Navalny's election office, was fined 15,000 roubles. 

The mother of one teenager detained at the rally subsequently appealed against the 10,000 rouble fine imposed on her. In this case, police alleged that they had repeatedly told the teenager to leave the rally. The teenager had allegedly refused to do so. Caucasian Knot reports that in the appeal the teenager's mother "claimed that the commission for minors' affairs had no evidence, apart from the police protocol." Caucasian Knot reports that the court upheld the fine on the basis of the materials of the case that included a report the teenager had informed the commission he took part in the rally, "knowing in advance that it did not have official permission." According to this report, he also affirmed that the police had told him to leave the scene of the illegal rally.

Photo of Mamaev Kurgan, Volgograd: Wikipedia

'Volgograd mother fined for her son's participation in anti-corruption rally,' Caucasian Knot, 28 June 2017
Full text of the article is available on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’
'Court fines majority of Alexei Navalny's supporters detained in Volgograd,' Caucasian Knot, 26 March 2017
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Legal Case of the Week: Bayev and Others v. Russia [ECtHR]

posted 26 Jun 2017, 09:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Jun 2017, 03:24 ]

On 20 June 2017 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Bayev and Others against Russia that Russian legislation that bans promotion of homosexuality to minors encourages homophobia and discrimination. The Court found violations of Article 10 of the Convention (freedom of expression) and Article 14 (discrimination) in conjunction with Article 10 of the Convention. Three Russian gay rights activists had made the application to the European Court against the 2013 federal law that bans propaganda of homosexuality to minors. The three had been arrested in the years 2009-12 when they had protested against laws enacted in Russian regions which later became the model for the federal statute. As The Guardian reports:

'One of the activists who brought the case was arrested after he had stood in front of a secondary school in Ryazan with placards stating “homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality”. The second and third applicants had picketed a public library in Arkhangelsk with banners listing famous Russians believed to have been gay. One of the banners said: “Children have the right to know. Great people are also sometimes gay; gay people also become great. Homosexuality is natural and normal.” One of the men carried out another protest at an administrative building in St Petersburg. The three men had been fined for breaking the law and appealed to the ECHR in Strasbourg after Russia’s constitutional court dismissed their cases. In a long-awaited ruling the ECHR took apart the arguments put forward by Russian government lawyers, rejecting claims the law protected public morals, health and other people’s rights.'

The applicants were represented in court by Mr Dmitry Bartenev, a human rights lawyer practising in St. Petersburg. 

In what The Guardian described as a 'comprehensive demolition of the arguments advanced by Russian [government] lawyers, the European Court of Human Rights in its ruling stated: “By adopting such laws the [Russian] authorities reinforce stigma and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society." The judgment was adopted on the basis of majority of six out of seven of the judges. The Russian judge Dmitry Dedov dissented.

The Guardian quoted one of the applicants, Nikolai Alexeev, a gay rights activist, as saying the ruling was 'an enormous court victory for LGBT people in Russia. [...] We have managed to legally prove that by adopting those laws Russian authorities breached their international commitments under the European convention.'

In a statement Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Research Deputy Director, said in reaction to the judgment: “This legislation has always been nothing short of homophobic. The law is blatantly discriminatory and violates the right to freedom of expression, and its introduction has contributed to a climate of homophobia and violence targeting LGBTI people in Russia. We strongly welcome today’s ruling, not least given the renewed urgency over investigating the reports of the terrifying campaign of mass abduction and torture of men perceived to be gay in Chechnya. We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to repeal its homophobic legislation, end discriminatory practices and fully respect every person’s right to freedom of expression. They should also effectively investigate all instances of homophobic violence in Russia.”

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads: 
"ARTICLE 10 Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises. 
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads: 
"ARTICLE 14 Prohibition of discrimination 
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status."

Commenting on Article 14 of the Convention, UK Human Rights Blog writes: "This right is parasitic; it is of no use to someone wishing to complain of discrimination who cannot establish that another free-standing Convention right is engaged. [...] So, Article 14 must be pleaded in relation to some other substantive right in the Convention. It is not necessary to establish an actual violation of another Article; if the claim comes within the ambit of another protected right then it is possible for the applicant to succeed on discrimination alone, even if the primary violation has not been established, or the Member State’s action has been found to come within one of the permissible exceptions to that right (Belgian Linguistic Case (1967) 1 EHRR 252)."

'CASE OF BAYEV AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA,' European Court of Human Rights, 20 June 2017
Jennifer Rankin, 'Russian "gay propaganda" law ruled discriminatory by European court,' The Guardian, 20 June 2017
'ECHR rule exposes homophobic nature of Russian “gay propaganda law”,' Amnesty International, 20 June 2017
European Convention on Human Rights, Council of Europe website
'Article 14,' UK Human Rights Blog

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Legal Case of the Week: Dinar Idrisov

posted 19 Jun 2017, 08:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jun 2017, 08:20 ]

On 13 June 2017 in St Petersburg human rights activist Dinar Idrisov was arrested as he sought to provide legal assistance to protesters and activists on trial following the protests against corruption held on 12 June. On 14 June Dinar Idrisov was sentenced under administrative law to 14 days in jail for “petty hooliganism”. Front Line Defenders issued a statement expressing its concern about the the administrative conviction of Dinar Idrisov, stating that Idrisov's conviction was "in reprisal for his defense of people detained during the demonstrations of 12 June 2016 and directly related to his human rights work in denouncing human rights violations in the Russian Federation." 

Front Line Defenders called for the Russian authorities to take three steps: "1.Immediately quash the sentence Dinar Idrisov and take all necessary measures to ensure his immediate and unconditional release and to guarantee his physical and psychological security and integrity; 2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into attack and arbitrary arrest of Dinar Idrisov, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions."

Front Line Defenders describes the events leading up to Dinar Idrisov's arrest on 13 June 2017 as follows:

On 13 June 2017 at the Dzerzhinsky district Court of Saint Petersburg, Dinar Idrisov was attempting to provide legal assistance to activists and protesters who were on trial after they were arbitrarily detained during the anti-corruption demonstrations in Saint Petersburg on 12 June 2017. A judge of the court denied him access to the detainees and ordered his arrest. In the court building, the police accused Dinar Idrisov of failure to follow an order of a judge or bailiff under Article 17.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, and released him. When Dinar Idrisov left the court building, an unidentified person threw a bottle at him, that the defender managed to avoid. Immediately following the attack, police officers arrested Dinar Idrisov and took him to a special administrative detention facility in Gatchina city.

At 6 pm on 14 June 2017, Dinar Idrisov was put on trial by the Dzerzhinsky district Court of Saint Petersburg, where he was found guilty of ”petty hooliganism” under Article 20.1 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, owing to 'swearwords' that the defender allegedly directed at his attacker. The court hearing lasted six hours and was held behind closed doors. After the court announced the guilty verdict, Dinar Idrisov was transferred to a detention centre in Gatchina city to serve his sentence.

'Dinar Idrisov receives administrative sentence,' Front Line Defenders, 16 June 2017
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Legal Case of the Week: Church of Scientology

posted 12 Jun 2017, 08:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Jun 2017, 09:23 ]

On 6 June the headquarters of the Church of Scientology in St. Petersburg was raided by the FSB, and five members were arrested: the head of the local Church Ivan Matsitsky, the Church's chief accountant Sahib Aliyev, the chief of the official relations department Anastasia Terentieva, and Church members Galina Shurinova and Konstantsia Yesaulkova. As The Moscow Times reported on 6 June 2017, the security services accuse the Church of extremism, inciting hatred, and operating an illegal business. Subsequently, RFE/RL reported that on 8 June 2017 a court in St. Petersburg remanded Ivan Matsitsky, the leader of the city's branch of the Church of Scientology, in detention for two months.  As RAPSI reported, on 7 June the court remanded in custody the two managers of the Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg, Anastasia Terentyeva and Sakhib Aliev; and on 8 June the court ordered the detention of executive director of the Church of Scientology Galina Shurinova, until August 5.

While in 1996 the State Duma adopted a resolution that classified the Church of Scientology as a "destructive religious organization", in 2015 a court ordered the Church of Scientology's Moscow operation to be dissolved, on the grounds it could not be considered a religious organization.

Photo of symbol of Scientology: Wikipedia

'Church of Scientology Raided by Russian Security Forces (Again),' The Moscow Times, 6 June 2017
'Court Orders Scientology Church Leader, Members Detained In St. Petersburg,' RFE/RL, 9 June 2017
'Defendant in St. Petersburg Church of Scientology case put under house arrest, RAPSI, 9 June 2017
'St. Petersburg Church of Scientology executive director put in detention,' RAPSI, 8 June 2017
'Alleged member of St. Petersburg Church of Scientology detained in extremism case,' RAPSI, 7 June 2017
'Russian court bans Moscow branch of the Church of Scientology,' The Guardian, 23 November 2017

Legal Case of the Week: Valentina Cherevatenko

posted 5 Jun 2017, 04:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 08:26 ]

On 2 June 2017 Valentina Cherevatenko, head of Women of the Don, a human rights NGO based in Novocherkassk, Rostov region, was formally charged with intentionally avoiding registration of her NGO as a “foreign agent.” Valentina Cherevatenko has become the first person to be prosecuted under criminal law in relation to the 'foreign agent' law, adopted by Russia in 2012. As RFE/RL reports, if convicted, Valentina Cherevatenko could face up to two years in prison. The media outlet cited Amnesty International as saying her case is "emblematic of the deeply repressive approach the Russian authorities are taking towards independent civil society organizations." Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said her prosecution "sends a strong signal to all Russian NGOs that their staffs could face arbitrary charges and prison for simply accepting foreign funding for their important human rights work.” RFE/RL also reports that EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini’s office criticized the 'foreign agent' law for restricting civil society and impeding exercise of fundamental freedoms, while, "Cherevatenko’s outstanding work on human rights education, peace building, and humanitarian issues is well-known and widely appreciated." 

Women of the Don was added to the Justice Ministry's list of foreign agents in 2014. Valentina Cherevatenko was informed that she was a suspect under Article 330.1 of the Russian Criminal Code following a search law enforcement officers conducted of her offices on 24 June 2016. As Amnesty International has reported: "Article 330.1 makes 'systematic evasion of duties imposed by the law on non-profit organisations performing the functions of a foreign agent' a crime which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. Article 330.1 was added to the Russian Criminal Code as part of the so-called 'foreign agents law' which requires all NGOs who receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined 'political activities' to register as 'organisations performing the functions of foreign agents,' brand all their public materials accordingly and comply with a stringent reporting regime." The searches of the offices of Women of the Don were condemned by, among others, Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. 

As Rights in Russia has reported earlier, Valentina Cherevatenko believes that the prosecution may be related to the activities of her group in seeking to establish monitoring by civil society actors of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

Amnesty International provide the following background on Women of the Don: "Women of the Don Union has worked tirelessly for over 20 years on a range of issues, from human rights to humanitarian relief and peacebuilding, in Rostov Oblast and the neighbouring regions, including in the North Caucasus. It is one of the most highly regarded and authoritative NGOs in Russia. Women of the Don Union, and its sister organization Women of the Don Foundation for Civil Society Development (where Valentina Cherevatenko is a member of the board), were declared “foreign agents” by the Ministry of Justice on 5 June 2014 and 27 October 2015 respectively. Both Women of the Don Union and Women of the Don Foundation for Civil Society Development have challenged their inclusion in the “foreign agents” register by the Ministry of Justice. On 29 February 2016 the Ministry of Justice officially removed one of them, Women of the Don Union, from the register stating that the organisation "had stopped performing the functions of a foreign agent". Under Russian law a person investigated for a crime has the status of suspect until an indictment is issued against them at which stage they are formally accused. The “foreign agents law” has had a chilling effect on many organisations and civil society activists in Russia. Its aggressive implementation by the authorities has resulted in a number of prominent NGOs choosing to close down, several more facing bankruptcy for refusing to brand themselves “foreign agents” and being issued with heavy fines, and has disrupted the normal work on hundreds of NGOs across Russia."

'NGO Head First Russian Charged Under "Foreign Agent" Law,' RFE/RL, 2 June 2017
'Rights Group of the Week: Women of the Don,' Rights in Russia, 4 July 2016
'Russia launches its first criminal case against a nonprofit for evading the "law on foreign agents",’ Meduza, 28 June 2016
'Заведено первое уголовное дело за неисполнение закона об иностранных агентах,' Vedomosti, 28 June 2016
Grigory Tumanov, 'В офисе организации «Женщины Дона» начались обыски,' Kommersant, 24 June 2016
'Глава СПЧ считает обыск в союзе "Женщины Дона" необоснованным,' RIA Novosti, 24 June 2016
Nils Muižnieks, Facebook
'Statement: "Drop unfounded criminal charges against Russian human rights activist Valentina Cherevatenko",' Rights in Russia [via Public Verdict Foundation], 17 May 2016
'Russia: Rights Activist Interrogated - First Criminal Inquiry in a "Foreign Agents" case,' Human Rights Watch, 18 May 2016

Legal Case of the Week: Aleksandr Shpakov

posted 29 May 2017, 02:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2017, 02:42 ]

On 24 May 2017 a Moscow court sentenced Aleksandr Shpakov, who took part in an anti-corruption protest on 26 March 2017, to 18 months in prison after convicting him of attacking a police officer. As RFE/RL reports, Aleksandr Shpakov is the second person (after Yury Kuly who was sentenced on 18 May 2017 to 8 months in prison for allegedly assaulting a member of the National Guard at the same anti-corruption protest) to be sentenced in connection with one of the largest protests in Russia in years. At the anti-corruption protests in more than 100 Russian cities on 26 March 2017, initiated by Aleksei Navalny, police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow. Human rights activists are concerned that the authorities may instigate a number of criminal prosecutions along the lines of the prosecutions that followed the 2012 Bolotnaya Square demonstration.

Photo of Aleksandr Shpakov: from Dmitry Borko's Facebook page via Mediazona

'Russian Protester Jailed For 18 Months Over March 26 Rally,' RFE/RL, 24 May 2017
'Legal Case of the Week: Yury Kuly,' Rights in Russia, 22 May 2017
Vera Vasilieva, 'Human rights defenders fear a "Bolotnaya Square case-2",' Rights in Russia, 28 April 2017
'Дело 26 марта. Александр Шпаков,' Mediazona, 24 May 2017

Legal Case of the Week: Yury Kuly

posted 22 May 2017, 08:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 08:38 ]

On 18 May 2017, Yury Kuly, an actor who had been detained at an anti-corruption rally in Moscow on 26 March 2017, was sent to prison for eight months. As The Moscow Times reports, Yury Kuly "is the first demonstrator to face the court after the protest, which saw more than 1,000 people detained by police in Moscow alone." The demonstration, which had been called by anti-corruption campaigner and opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, had not been given official permission. Kuly was charged with assaulting a member of Russia's National Guard, an offence for which the prosecutors had asked for a two-year prison term. According to the The Moscow Times, Kuly had pleaded guilty to the charges in the hope of receiving a suspended sentence. The lawyer representing Yury Kuly, Aleksei Lipster, is reported by The Moscow Times as saying that Kuly maintains he "had grabbed the officer's hand in a bid to protect an elderly man from the riot police."

Earlier, the news webiste Mediazona reported that one of two witnesses who had given testimony in court against Yury Kuly was Aleksei Petrunko, an activist with a pro-Kremlin radical group, "who is suspected for attacking oppositionist leader Alexei Navalny with a brilliant green dye solution."

Three other defendants have been charged with attacking law enforcement officers during the anti-corruption protest in Moscow on 26 March 26.

Photo: OVD-Info 

'Anti-Corruption Protester Jailed for 8 Months After Navalny's Moscow Rally,' The Moscow Times, 18 May 2017
'Man suspected of attacking Navalny testified against detainee in “March 26” case,' Mediazona, 12 May 2017

Legal Case of the Week: Ruslan Sokolovsky

posted 15 May 2017, 06:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 May 2017, 06:11 ]

On 11 May 2017 22-year-old blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky was given a three-and-a-half year suspended prison sentence by a court in Ekaterinburg for ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘offending believers’ feelings’ after filming himself playing Pokémon Go in a cathedral. As Amnesty International reported, Ruslan Sokolovsky had been arrested in September 2016 under charges of 'public actions expressing clear disrespect to society with the aim to insult religious feelings of believers committed in places for religious worship' and 'incitement of hatred' after publishing a video of himself playing Pokémon Go in a cathedral in Ekaterinburg. Ruslan Sokolovsky was convicted under Article 282 (incitement of hatred or enmity and humiliation of human dignity) and Article 148 (violation of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion) of the Russian Criminal Code.

Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said: "While some may see Ruslan Sokolovsky’s comments on religion as disparaging, this alone is not enough to prosecute him. Sokolovsky came to the attention of the authorities only when he publicly challenged absurdly harsh Russian legislation that criminalized offending believers’ feelings. With Sokolovsky’s conviction, the Russian authorities send a strong message to anyone who wants to challenge the country’s grotesque ‘blasphemy’ law. Make no mistake, this is neither piety nor a genuine effort to protect the freedom of religion in Russia – especially coming after the authorities only last month banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is another assault on freedom of expression.”

Yulia Gorbunova, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s a relief that Sokolovsky is not behind bars, but the fact that he was prosecuted and convicted remains a prime example of the Russian authorities using vague and broad anti-extremist laws to stifle free speech and promote self-censorship. Sokolovsky’s actions may have offended some or indeed many, but they present no public danger and criminal sanctions against him are groundless incursions on the right to free expression.”

Following his arrest, Memorial Human Rights Centre recognized Ruslan Sokolovsky as a political prisoner.

Aleksandr Podrabinek, a journalist and human rights defender, pointed out in an article that "The prosecutor in the trial of the case of Ruslan Sokolovsky [...] accused the defendant of not respecting the State. 'An expression of disrespect for the State is inadmissible,' Prosecutor Ekaterina Kalinina stated. Moreover, she accused Sokolovsky of “anti-constitutional 'attitudes' and 'ridiculing the Russian president.'" Aleksandr Podrabinek went on to ask: "What does any of this have to do with the law? [...] Why is a legal professional in court accusing a defendant of something that does not fall within the framework of the law?"

Also commenting on the case, journalist and human rights defender Zoya Svetova, said in an article published before the conviction of Ruslan Sokolovsky: "The charge and criminal case against Ruslan Sokolovsky is the latest stupid joke bringing to mind what was far from the best time in Russian history. Ruslan Sokolovsky made this point in his final address to the court: ‘There was a time, long long ago, when people were sentenced to the camps for longer than three and a half years, for as long as ten, for telling obscene jokes about Stalin or communism. Today I am to be sentenced to three and a half years for an obscene joke about Russian orthodoxy and Patriarch Kirill. As far as I am concerned, this is simply savage and barbaric, I don’t understand how such a thing is possible. However, as can be seen, it is perfectly possible – a sentence of three and a half years is being asked for’."

Photo of Ruslan Sokolovsky: Memorial Human Rights Centre

'Russian YouTuber convicted of blasphemy after playing Pokémon Go in a church,' Amnesty International, 11 May 2017
'Russia: Pokemon Go Blogger Convicted. Set Aside Unlawful Verdict on Extremism Charges,' Human Rights Watch, 11 May 2017
'Александр Подрабинек: Откровенные времена,' Radio Svoboda, 9 May 2017 [translation by Rights in Russia: 'Aleksandr Podrabinek: Candid Times,' Rights in Russia, 9 May 2017'
'Zoya Svetova on the case of the vlogger Ruslan Sokolovsky: "A Feeling of Outrage" [Radio Svoboda],' Rights in Russia, 3 May 2017
'ПЦ "Мемориал" считает видеоблогера Руслана Соколовского политзаключенным,', 5 December 2016

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