Person of the Week: Darya Polyudova

posted 28 Dec 2015, 09:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Dec 2015, 10:57 ]
On 21 December 2015 a Krasnodar court sentenced Darya Polyudova to 2 years in prison for supposed inciting ‘extremism and separatism.’ Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, reports that the prosecution dates back to August 2014, when Darya Polyudova together with some friends 'tried to hold a march in favour of greater, although still limited, federalization for Kuban. The repressive measures, both against Polyudova and some activists in Siberia who were only asking for a greater say at local level.' Darya Polyudova was arrested on 15 August 2014, two days before the banned march was to take place. At that time she was jailed for 14 days for what the court decided to consider ‘petty hooliganism’. Criminal proceedings on new charges for alleged violation of Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (namely, public calls to actions aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity). were initiated on 15 September before she had been released. She was then held in custody for a further 6 months, until procedural rules demanded her release.

As Human Rights in Ukraine reports, there were two grounds for the prosecution. The first was that on 4 April 2014 she had held a single-person picket at which she had held a banner reading, 'No war against Ukraine, but revolution in Russia! No war, but revolution'. She posted a picture of herself with the banner on VKontakte. The second was that she had shared someone else’s post on social media containing the words 'Wake up, people! Why can we not get rid of Putin and then make a socialist revolution?!!! Enough sleeping! It’s time to go out onto the square and overthrow this regime'. She had also reposted a picture with the words: 'Ethnic Ukrainians of Kuban want to join Ukraine.' The second episode was the first time that charges had been laid under the new offence provided for under Article 280 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (namely, public calls to extremism via the Internet).

Tanya Lokshina, Russia Program Director for Human Rights Watch, has written about this case:
        'Polyudova’s VK page has all of 38 followers, and most of her posts draw very few comments. Her words can’t be taken as inciting violence, and they certainly didn’t pose a “danger to the public,” as Russian law requires for criminal prosecution. Polyudova’s prosecution is one in a growing number of cases where Russians are being punished for speaking their mind. [...] Since the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin in 2012, the Russian government has instituted an unprecedented and sweeping crackdown on critics of the government, and one of its tools has been overbroad and vague anti-extremism legislation. As the space for freedom of speech in the traditional media narrows, the government is now going after the Internet and targeting individuals who try to stir public debate about sensitive issues, especially Ukraine. [...]  By criminally prosecuting [Darya Polyudova], the government is sending a chilling signal to Internet users across country – if you think you can speak your mind online, think again.'

Halya Coynash, 'Russian "federalization march" activist jailed for critical social network posts,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 22 December 2015
Tanya Lokshina, 'Dispatches: The Crime of Speaking Up in Russia,' Human Rights Watch, 22 December 2015