Person of the Week: Viktor Kapitonov

posted 8 Oct 2016, 07:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Oct 2016, 07:20 ]
On 7 October 2016 Viktor Kapitonov was detained by police when he tried to hold a legal solitary picket in memory of Anna Politkovskaya. Anna Politkovskaya was murdered ten years ago on 7 October 2006. 

Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, reports that Viktor Kapitonov, a 20-year-old who has a disability, was detained by police outside the offices of the presidential administration in Moscow. When he was detained by the police he was treated with such violence that he broke his arm. He was hospitalized and may require an operation. However, Viktor Kapitonov has been told he may face administrative charges, despite the fact that he had been 'standing quietly with a placard in memory of Anna Politkovskaya' when he had been violently dragged away by police. Under Russian law, no permit is required for single-person pickets. As the police officers dragged him away, Viktor Kapitonov shouted out that it was exactly 10 years since Anna Politkovskaya had been murdered. It was when Viktor Kapitonov shouted that 'Putin is Russia’s disgrace' and that 'there could be no forgetting or forgiving Anna Politkovskaya’s murder' that the police became violent. On the video of the incident, Viktor Kapitonov can be heard saying that the police had broken his arm (see video of the incident).

As OVD-Info points out, Viktor Kapitonov is a regular participant in Moscow protests. The last time he protested, Moscow's Tver district court fined him 250,000 roubles for taking part in a reading of the Russian constitution outside the State Duma.   

Halya Coynash reports: 'There had been no breach of the law, yet the police took Kapitonov to the police station and drew up a protocol over administrative proceedings. He is due in court on October 18, charged under Article 20.2 § 8 of the Code of Administrative Offences over a supposed repeat infringement of the rules for holding a public event. This carries a fine of up to 300 thousand roubles, 200 hours of community work or up to 30 days in jail. Friends were only able to call an ambulance after he was released from the police station. Viktor Kapitonov will almost certainly be found ‘guilty’ by a Russian court of a non-existent administrative offence and the police officers whose gratuitous detention and savagery are recorded, will face no penalties. The court hearing will be the second in less than a month. As reported here, he was fined 250 thousand roubles on Aug 23 for publicly reading out Russia’s Constitution outside the State Duma. He was detained, together with four other people, on Sept. 12 for reading aloud the document which is supposed to guarantee all Russian citizens the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. In Kapitonov’s case, his reading of the Constitution was also treated as a ‘repeated infringement of the same rules for holding a public event’ under Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences. The young man was one of four activists who were detained on August 25 when they came out onto Red Square with a banner reading “For your freedom, and ours”. The words directly recalled the action by 8 Russians who came out onto Red Square on August 25, 1968, in protest at the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Almost all of them were sent to labour camp or psychiatric [KGB] clinic for their courage. 48 years later, activists were again detained for no more. Kapitonov and some other activists were tried in May for coming out onto Bolotnaya Square on the fourth anniversary of the major protest against Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term and subsequent clampdown. The activists were held overnight in a police station. Kapitonov was then fined 150 thousand roubles. He is disabled, which was the only reason he was not jailed. Despite his disability, he has been treated very roughly by OMON riot police in the past with no justification (as the video footage here shows). At one of the previous hearings, the judge claimed that she was being lenient because Kapitonov is disabled. In fact, any of the fines are totally prohibitive for a person living on a disability pension. The young man is also on principle opposed to paying unjust fines which would appear to recognize non-existent guilt. According to the new Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, introduced in July 2014, criminal proceedings and a sentence of up to 5 years are envisaged if a court has issued three rulings on administrative offences with 180 days. The kind of grounds and level of justification for such administrative proceedings are demonstrated by the treatment of Viktor Kapitonov. If they now choose to bring a criminal prosecution against this courageous young man, it will be, among other things, for reading Russia’s Constitution and joining people from all over the world in honouring Anna Politkovskaya.'

Halya Coynash, 'Russian activist detained & savagely beaten for picket in memory of Anna Politkovskaya,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 8 October 2016
'Активист госпитализирован после задержания с плакатом в память Политковской,' OVD-Info, 7 October 2016