Rachel Denber: The case against Vitishko was little more than an exercise in punishment for his activism

posted 22 Dec 2015, 11:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Dec 2015, 12:03 ]
"In June 2012, Vitishko and a co-defendant [Suren Gazaryan] were found guilty of painting “This is our forest” on a fence surrounding a construction site that was in a public forest. [...] The court sentenced Vitishko and his codefendant, Suren Gazaryan, to a conditional three-year term, meaning they could avoid prison if they adhered to a curfew and other limits on their movements. Gazaryan has since faced further bogus criminal charges, received asylum abroad, and now lives in exile. The events that followed made it abundantly clear the case was little more than an exercise in punishment for Vitishko’s activism. Six months later, a judge on dubious grounds slapped more restrictions on Vitishko for allegedly violating his curfew. In November 2013, as the games approached, police briefly detained Vitishko as part of a broader sweep against Environmental Watch activists, again claiming he had violated his curfew. A few weeks later, a court converted Vitishko’s conditional sentence to an active one, subjecting him to imprisonment. In February 2014, police arrested Vitishko – then at liberty, pending appeal. A court then sentenced him to 15 days’ detention for allegedly swearing in public. This kept him conveniently locked up not only prior to the Games but also to his appeal. About a week into the Games, Vishko lost his appeal and was hauled off to the “settlement colony.” Evgeny Vitishko has already lost 21 months of his life. He held a 20-day hunger strike after the prosecutors filed their objection. Soon, I hope, he will be free. But meanwhile, every second he spends in that colony is a cruel injustice."

        - Rachel Denber, Deputy Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

Source: Rachel Denber, 'Dispatches: Down the Russian Rabbit Hole of Injustice,' Human Rights Watch, 21 December 2015