Person of the Week: Oksana Sevastidi

posted 12 Dec 2016, 03:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Dec 2016, 04:06 ]
Oksana Sevastidi, a 46-year-old shopkeeper from the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for high treason. As RFE/RL reports: 'Sevastidi was arrested by the Krasnodar branch of the FSB in January 2015. She spent 14 months in pretrial detention, during which time prosecutors questioned her only twice. Her own defense attorney never visited her.' RFE/RL notes that, while Sevastidi was convicted and sentenced in March 2016, her case only became widely known this month when desperate relatives contacted the Memorial human rights organization for help appealing the court's ruling, and Memorial engaged the human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov, the leading member of the informal association of lawyers Team 29 based in St. Petersburg, to act in her defence. According to RFE/RL: 'Sevastidi was convicted of sending two SMS messages in the first half of 2008 that the Russian government argued contained secret information about military movements in the direction of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia. Russia and Georgia fought a brief war over Abkhazia and a second Georgian region, South Ossetia, in August 2008, after which Moscow recognized both regions as independent. Sevastidi still cannot quite believe what happened at her trial, which was held in the basement of the local Federal Security Service (FSB) branch under tight secrecy.' 

In an interview with the website Meduza, published on December 5, Oksana Sevastidi said: "The prosecutor didn't let me say a word in my own defense. Everything was done in one day: the arguments, the concluding statements, and the sentence. It was all very fast and mixed up, like in a dream. And as if through a shroud, I heard the words 'seven years.'" [Translation by RFE/RL]

On 2 December 2016, Memorial Human Rights Centre published a letter they had received from Oksana Sevastidi in which she writes:

'When I heard the court’s decision I almost passed out. I’ve never done a single bad thing in my life. I’m from a very good family. It’s hard to believe what kind of a place I’m in now. Please help me, not only for myself, but you would be saving another life, my mother’s. Please help me sort out my case. My case is the same as Kharebava’s, I don’t have any aggravating circumstances, only extenuating ones, and so no one understands why they gave me this sentence, everyone who finds out what I’m in here for is horrified that this can happen here. Please help me. Save the life of another political prisoner.' [translation by Sarah Hurst]

Photo: RFE/RL

'Advocates claim spy hysteria in Kuban,' Caucasian Knot, 7 December 2016
Lyubov Chizhova, Andrei Sharogradsky, Robert Coalson, 'Seven Years For An SMS: Activists Alarmed Over Southern Russia Treason Convictions,' RFE/RL, 6 December 2016
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, 'Human Rights Lawyers Discover 5 Cases of Russian Women Imprisoned for State Treason Related to Georgia,' The Interpreter, 6 December 2016
'«Прокурор мне даже слова не дал сказать в свое оправдание» Интервью Оксаны Севастиди, которую посадили по обвинению в госизмене за смс восьмилетней давности,' Meduza, 5 December 2016
'Russian Woman Jailed For High Treason Wants To Appeal Sentence,' RFE/RL, 2 December 2016
'Жительницу Сочи приговорили к колонии за СМС о военной технике накануне войны с Грузией,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 2 December 2016
'Sarah Hurst: Letter to Memorial from Oksana Sevastidi, convicted of treason [translation]', Rights in Russia, 2 December 2016