Rights Groups in Russia

To read our earlier translations of publications by Russian human rights groups, please click HERE

300 LGBT Celebrated IDAHOT under open St. Petersburg Skies

posted 18 May 2017, 04:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 May 2017, 04:51 ]

17 May 2017

Source: Coming Out [Выход]

Today, the unexpected happened! Over 300 LGBT people and allies celebrated the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on Marsovo pole, the picturesque field in the center of St Petersburg; unimpeded, and under police protection. This became the first successful LGBT public rally since at least the beginning of 2016, when the situation with freedom of assembly for LGBT people sharply deteriorated.

And yet, this year especially wev feared a completely opposite scenario. In sharp contrast to 2014-2015, beginning in the early 2016, every attempt at rallying with rainbow insignia in St. Petersburg was curtailed, participants detained. For IDAHO 2016, Coming Out applied 12 times to receive permission to rally, 12 denials received from the city administration, each time with a clearly made-up excuse. The administration's intent was clear - to not allow us to demonstrate. The courts, on their part, interpreted the administration's lack of permission as "not a ban", therefore "not preventing organizers from realizing their rights". Last but not least, the police would use the administration's position to detain rally participants unlawfully.

This year, we decided to take this game of cat-and-mouse with the city administration, the police, and the courts to its logical conclusion. We applied for permission (got denied), went to court (court said - not a ban), and then sent the court's decision to the police, called them, faxed them, asked them for meetings, called the ombudsman of Saint Petersburg and asked him to call the police, called them again, etc., throughout the two weeks up until the day of the rally.

And then a miracle happened! Despite the fact that there was a "mass cultural and sports event", which the city administration organized specifically at the exact spot we were planning to use, despite the fact that we didn't have a permission slip from the administration to hold the rally, the police was there to protect, and not detain. Moreover, at a certain point during the rally, two counter-protesters from the "National Liberation Мovement" who attempted to interfere with the speeches by blasting loud music and singing patriotic songs, were thwarted by the police.

Under the slogan "Time to speak!", we spoke about the right to life and how silencing a whole group of people can lead to mass incarceration, torture, and murder, about the importance of self- advocacy and empowering each and every member of the vulnerable communities, about health and self-care. Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network, Johnny Dzhibladze of Coming Out, Alexey Sergeev of the Alliance of Straights and LGBT for Equality, and Yelena Kostyuchenko of the "Novaya Gazeta" newspaper addressed the participants. The rally went to the fullest extent of what was planned, and 300 LGBT people today had a chance to openly rally for their rights in their city.

Yosef Kristian, this year's rally's coordinator: "It's difficult to draw any conclusions in our context, when so much depends on the political will of those in power. But one thing I feel today for sure - we have to stubbornly continue doing what we're doing, despite setbacks and one day. Our strategy is "constant dripping wears away a stone," and today a little chip of that stone fell off."

OVD-Info: #We’veHadEnough: anti-Putin protesters face pressure on the street and at school

posted 8 May 2017, 00:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 May 2017, 01:00 ]

5 May 2017

Source: OpenDemocracy [original in Russian here]

Each week Rights in Russia republishes a translation by OpenDemocracy of OVD-Info's weekly summary of its work monitoring politically-motivated arrests in Russia 

After last week’s country-wide protest, people involved are facing physical attacks, informal pressure from security services and inside educational institutions.

This past week has seen the culmination of the country-wide #We’veHadEnough (#Надоел) protest. Read about the detentions here.

In St Petersburg, for example, Dinar Idrisov, a rights defender, was detained particularly harshly at the city’s Police Station 22, which he was visiting in order to represent the interests of people detained at the protest. Police officers pushed Idrisov to the ground and handcuffed him. He then spent the night in the station, and the next - in court, where a judge examined the administration case against him for not following a police officer’s instructions. On 2 May, the court fined Idrisov 1,000 roubles. You can read more about this here.

The Russian authorities and employees of educational institutions continue to pressure young participants of protests. One #We’veHadEnough protester in Petersburg, for instance, was forced to write a letter explaining her actions in school, and threatened with being placed on a register of problematic children; and in Samara, students at one gymnasium were sent to see the school psychiatrist after a teacher overheard them talking about Alexei Navalny. The authorities’ pressure sometimes becomes quite serious — members of Russia’s Center for Combatting Extremism visited a school pupil who’d written a comment online about Navalny’s protest; and in Kaliningrad, a pupil at cadet school was expelled for participating in #We’veHadEnough. In the Kaluga region, the regional ministry of education revealed how they have lists of students who go to protests, “who will in the future impede our lives”.

There’s been attacks on activists, too. The moderator of an social network group “Muscovites against demolition” was beaten up by four unknown assailants. A lecturer at the School of Journalistic Investigations was also attacked. Alexei Navalny has been the least lucky: he was attacked with a unknown substance, and there’s a chance that he will lose his vision in one eye. The police have opened a criminal case into the attack on the politician. And a court has legally recognised the sentence against Navalny and Pyotr Ofitserov, which serious reduces the chances of Navalny participating in the presidential elections. We take a look at the SERB movement, the alleged people behind the attack on Navalny.

In Ekaterinburg, the prosecution in the Ruslan Sokolovsky case is requesting three and a half year sentence for the blogger, who made a video of himself playing Pokemon Go in the city cathedral.

But there’s good news, too. This week, Alexei Sutuga, an anti-fascist activist, was released after three years in prison in Angarsk. Check out his case here.

What we’re reading

Russia’s Investigative Committee has finished its investigation into three of the four men under investigation as part of the 26 March case, and Yuri Kuliy’s case has already been sent to court. We spoke to the friends of Alexander Shpakov, who’s accused of hitting a police officer several times.

Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, a Bolotnaya prisoner, has not been released from isolation prison after he was beaten up by prison officers in a Yaroslavl prison colony. On 28 April, European Court of Human Rights demanded that Russia account for its investigation into beatings in Yaroslavl Colony No 1 — as Sergei Sharov-Delone, Nepomnyashchikh’s legal representative, tells us, the prison administration isn’t rushing to fulfil these requests.

Arma17, a music promoter group behind various festivals and concerts in Russia, has announced that it’s stopping work in Russia. We’ve got the details of the pressure Arma17’s under here.

Thank you

Find out how to survive and protect yourself from political prosecution. Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

OVD-Info: Russian authorities ramp up repression against anti-corruption protesters

posted 2 May 2017, 13:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 May 2017, 13:20 ]

28 April 2017 

Source: OpenDemocracy [original in Russian here]

Each week Rights in Russia republishes a translation by OpenDemocracy of OVD-Info's weekly summary of its work monitoring politically-motivated arrests in Russia 

This week, Russia’s Investigative Committee finished its initial investigation into three of the four men charged in the “26 March” case — Yuri Kuliy, actor, Aleksandr Shpakov, joiner, and Stanislav Zimovets, political activist. This case, which follows the country-wide anti-corruption protests last month, focuses on instances of violence against police officers, and now has 145 investigators working on it — some of whom previously worked on the Bolotnaya case. Indeed, Kuliy and Zimovets have been forced to agree to their cases being examined via “special procedure”, whereby they admit their guilt in full without examination of evidence. Find out how other participants of the 26 March protests are experiencing repressions in our survey here.

In other news, it’s not just Bolotnaya investigators who are transferring to the “26 March” case, but aggrieved parties, too. It was initially reported that Evgeny Gavrilov, a Moscow riot police officer, suffered injuries during the 26 March protests — and he acted as a victim in the case against Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, one of the last defendants in Bolotnaya. Now it’s come to light that lieutenant Valery Gonikov, whom Aleksandr Shpakov is accused of beating up, also acted as a victim in the 2012 Bolotnaya investigation into mass unrest.

Svetlana Sidorkina, a human rights lawyer, managed to visit Stanislav Zimovets, who is accused of causing bodily harm to Vladimir Kotenev, a police lieutenant, on 26 March. According to Zimovets, he was trying to help some other protest participants, who were, in his opinion, being violently dispersed by the police, and threw a brick in the direction of Kotenev. A small piece of brick apparently hit Kotenev. Zimovets has been sent to a pre-trial detention block where prisoners on life sentence are held — Zimovets and his lawyer believe that this is one of the forms of pressuring him.

This investigation doesn’t only concern adults, but teenagers detained on 26 March, too. They, and their parents, are being called in to the Investigative Committee for questioning repeatedly. For teenagers, this questioning lasts no less than four hours, and for parents - an hour and a half. The questions are set from a larger survey, which Open Russia has published here. Investigators ask, among other things, whether the teenagers were threatened in case they did not attend, whether they were promised compensation for legal fees or fines, as well as financial reward for participating or getting arrested at the demonstration.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has received the first complaint from a protest participant arrested on 26 March, Vitaly Nebieridze. The complaint states that Article 10 (Freedom of Speech and Opinion), Article 11 (Freedom of Assembly) and Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have been violated.

The undesirables

This week, Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, who was sentenced as part of the Bolotnaya case, was beaten up during a cell search in Yaroslavl Prison Colony No. 1. Together with several other prisoners, he was then transferred to an isolation cell. The prison administration refused Nepomyashchikh access to his lawyer, and the Federal Penitentiary Service denies that he was beaten, stating that he only had his “arm forced behind his back”.

Dmitry Demushkin, a Russian nationalist activist, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for, according to the prosecution, sharing two images on social networks with the aim of exciting hate towards a specific group of people.

Ruslan Zeitullayev, a resident of Sevastopol, was sentenced to 12 years of strict regime on charges of organising a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in Crimea, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation in Russia. Previously the court considered him a participant of the cell, rather than the organiser, and sentenced him to seven years of general regime, but the prosecution appealed. This is the first sentence for “coordinating a terrorist organisation” given to a resident of Crimea. Other cases against Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea are still in process.

In Moscow, the city authorities refused to sanction a demonstration by Open Russia (“We’ve had enough”) near the President’s public reception, and proposed to move it to another location. In several other cities, activists have had their proposals to hold public meetings refused — for instance, the Kazan authorities refused to permit 30 pickets, and in Novosibirsk, organisers withdrew their application after threats from the mayor’s office. In Chuvashia, where a meeting had been permitted, activists came under pressure. And in Petersburg, Kazan and Pskov, people have been arrested for making calls to attend demonstrations — one of them has been arrested for five days.

Activists from the Other Russia movement, detained in Krasnodar in connection with graffiting a local United Russia office, have been held at the police station for five days. The last news of their whereabouts was received on 25 April.

And finally, of course, Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office has recognised Open Russia — both its actions and as an organisation — as “undesirable”. A search was carried out at its Moscow office the next day.

What we’re reading

· The story of Oleg Lutin, psychologist, about being beaten with a baton during arrest, panic at the police station and life inside the Petrovka administrative prison

· MediaZona’s investigation into what will happen to Jehovah’s Witnesses after their Supreme Court ba

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

Memorial says Khiramagomed Magomedov, a civil society activist from Dagestan, is a political prisoner

posted 1 May 2017, 10:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 May 2017, 10:09 ]

21 April 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Khiramagomed Magomedov, one of the leaders of the civil society organization ‘Union of the Just’, has been charged with participating in the organization ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir al Islami’ (Party of Islamic Liberation), which is banned in Russia, attempting to involve a police officer embedded in the party in activities aimed at the violent seizure of power, and also in carrying a military pistol with three cartridges.

He has simultaneously been charged with offences under five articles of the Russian Criminal Code: Article 282.2, Section 2 (taking part in the activities of a non-governmental or religious association or organization that has been, by decision of a court, closed down or had its activities banned on grounds of extremism), Article 205.5, Section 2 (taking part in the activities of an organization that, in accordance with Russian law, has been designated as terrorist), Article 205.1, Section 1 (inducement, recruitment or other involvement of a person in committing at least one of the offences provided for under Articles 205, 206, 208, 211, 277, 278, 279 and 360 of the Russian Criminal Code); Article 30, Section 1, in conjunction with Article 278 (preparation of violent seizure of power) and Article 222, Section 1 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, possession, transport or carrying of firearms, their principle parts, or ammunition).

The charges relating to participation in a banned organization are based on the 2003 decision of the Russian Supreme Court to designate Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization. We have repeatedly expressed our disagreement with the position taken by the Supreme Court. There is no evidence that this organization, which is a legal political party in the Middle East, has been involved in even a single act of terrorism anywhere in the world. In the countries of Western Europe and North America the party is not banned (with the exception of Germany, where it is prohibited under administrative, but not criminal, law). We consider that there are no grounds to prosecute participants in Hizb ut-Tahrir as terrorists.

In essence, the investigators consider Magomedov’s offence to have been that he took part in rallies and pickets and also in study sessions on the Quran, learning Arabic, and on international politics and on public speaking. He is not accused of any acts of violence or incitement to violence. ‘Attempted involvement of a police officer in actions directed toward the violent seizure of power’ is a description given to a conversation in a kitchen in which Magomedov said that Muslims ‘are more and more turning to political Islam.’

The charges against Magomedov are duplicated. Participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir before November 2013 falls under Article 282.2, Section 2 of the Russian Criminal Code, and after that date, once the corresponding legal norm had been adopted, under Article 205.5, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code. We consider that this is one activity for which (if it really is a crime) he should be punished once only. He is also charged twice for a conversation about political Islam, under Article 205.1, Section 1, and under Article 30, Section 1, in conjunction with Article 278 of the Russian Criminal Code, although, in the view of the investigation, the sum total of Magomedov’s actions allegedly preparing the violent seizure of power consisted merely of the fact that he sought out an accomplice in his interlocutor.

Finally, prosecution under Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code had already begun in May 2015. The pistol and cartridges, according to the prosecution, were discovered in a pocket of Magomedov’s trousers after he was taken to the police station. He himself asserts that he was seized by unknown people outside the rector’s office at Dagestan State University, handcuffed and put in a car, where the pistol was planted on him. We do not have unequivocal evidence of Magomedov’s innocence on this count, only the version of the investigation and the version of Magomedov. However, we consider that a person who is on his own with law enforcement officers is not able to gather evidence to support his case, to summon independent witnesses, and so on. On the whole, his account of events does not seem to us to be contradictory and it is similar to other cases in which banned substances and other items have been planted on persons in Russia, and in particular in the North Caucasus. In any case, the charge under Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code is insignificant in comparison with the other charges.

We demand the release of Khiramagomed Magomedov.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not mean that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves of the individual’s views, statements or actions.

For more information about this case, see here.

Statement by Moscow Helsinki Group: Totalitarianism as a Threat to the National Security of the Russian Federation

posted 27 Apr 2017, 07:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Apr 2017, 08:33 ]

15 April 2017

Statement by members of the Moscow Helsinki Group, 15 April 2017 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [and Ekho Moskvy]

Events of the past few weeks force us to turn again, and with alarm, to the political situation that existed in Russian one hundred years ago, when the global catastrophe of 1917 occurred as a result of the court-monarchical mode of governing the country. Today we see the obvious signs of the dangerous instability of that system of governance: the taking of strange (to put it mildly) decisions at the highest level in the interests of groups having “access to the person” of the country’s leader; the lack of a predictable mechanism for the succession of power; the state’s detachment from reality and neglect of the populace’s vital needs; and suppression of the discontented by force. It was for these very reasons that the Soviet Union disappeared from the world map.

Here are the alarming events of the present day that threaten the Russian Federation’s very existence:

1. As a result of unprecedented pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the planned elections for RAN [Russian Academy of Sciences] president scheduled for 22 March of this year were cancelled. The two thousand leading scientists who had travelled to Moscow were astonished to learn that they had come in vain. It’s interesting to think what would have happened to the U.S. president if he had allowed himself such disdainful treatment of his country’s scientific elite.

2. On 21 February of this year, the Russian President met with the mayor of Moscow and approved the Renovation Programme, which proposes resettling 1.6 million Muscovites from basically comfortable housing subject to removal and frankly ignoring the very serious housing problems of hundreds of thousands of Muscovites. In the summer of 2016, in front of United Russia’s main public offices, the Moscow Housing Waiting List movement held a forty-day hunger strike by mothers of multiple children who have been brought to the point of despair by intolerable housing conditions (a family with multiple children in one room with other relatives in a communal apartment; two families with multiple children in one room; three families with multiple children in a one-room apartment—who have been in the housing line for 10 years and 27 years without the slightest hope of an “improvement,” and so on). They were supported by both the Moscow Helsinki Group and all government human rights officials, who organized meetings for this purpose with the Russian President’s administration. Sergei Sobyanin and Vladimir Putin, the leaders of the ruling party, knew about this. They knew but said nothing. And today Vladimir Putin approves the Renovation Programme, which is useless for impoverished Muscovites but promises super-profits for monopolists and officials. This approval is all the more amazing because Sergei Sobyanin has for more than four years ignored the direct instruction of Russian Presidential Decree No. 600 of 7 May 2012: “By January 2013, bring about the creation of an affordable rental housing market and the development of a nonprofit housing fund for low-income citizens.”

3. The silence of the grave from the authorities, including the Russian President, concerning the documents presented by Aleksei Navalny on the probable corruption of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Moreover, on 26 March of this year, these silent authorities used force even against children who did not want to be silent.

4. Repressive measures by the government against participants in the “tractor march” by Krasnodar farmers, against “long-distance truckers,” and so forth.

In all these instances, we see the same thing: corruption in government, monopolism in the economy, and the state’s use of force against the people in defence of a limited number of oligarchs and officials who steal budgetary funds and have access to the president.

By its very nature, this kind of totalitarian, “court” mode of governance does not provide a predictable mechanism for the succession of power, and this deficiency engenders instability and threatens the national security of the Russian Federation. This is why it is impossible not to agree with the words Vladimir Putin uttered seventeen years ago: “History convincingly attests that all dictatorships and authoritarian systems of governance are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. For all their shortcomings, humanity has come up with nothing better. Strong state power in Russia means a democratic, rule-of-law, competent, federative state” (his article, 'Russia at the Turn of the Millennium,' December 1999).

The stability of any system—physical or social—is assured by sufficient negative feedback—what in politics is called “a system of checks and balances.” This means independence for the three branches of power, the observance of citizens’ constitutional rights, free competitive elections as the systemic mechanism for changing elites in power, independent media, freedom of assembly, and so forth.

Unfortunately, not one of these conditions for the stability of the Russian Federation’s system of government system has been realized in the twenty-five years of the new Russia’s existence. But we should look ahead. As Andrei Sakharov said, “The future is created by us all, step by step, in our infinitely complex interaction.”

We call on the highest leadership of the Russian Federation not to deprive our country and our children of a future. We call on them to observe our Constitution, whose principles guarantee the stability of society, the Russian Federation’s legal and democratic character, and also “freedom of mass information” (Art. 29), the right “to assemble peacefully” (Art. 31), “the right to housing” (Art. 40), and others.

We call on Russia’s citizens, each of our fellow citizens, to support the demand that the state observe the Russian Federation’s Constitution, acting within the framework of the law and, of course, nonviolently, under the following slogan: “A stable state responsible to the people guarantees the observance of the civil and social rights of Russia’s citizens.”

Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Liudmila Alekseeva

MHG members:
Boris Altshuler,
Vyacheslav Bakhmin,
Valery Borshchev
Aleksei Golovan,
Sergei Lukashevsky,
Viktoria Malikova,
Daniil Meshcheryakov,
Aleksandr Petrov,
Lev Ponomarev,
Sergei Sorokin,
Liliya Shibanova

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Memorial Human Rights Centre: 15 Muslims, charged with preparing a terrorist attack on the Kirghiziya Cinema, are political prisoners

posted 24 Apr 2017, 08:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Apr 2017, 08:15 ]

17 April 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Weapons were planted on the defendants and they were charged with preparing an act of terrorism and sentenced to terms of between 11 and 12 years in prison

On 27 November 2013, in an apartment in a Moscow hostel where half a dozen Muslims were living, law enforcement officers burst in and ‘found’ explosives and ammunition. The Main Department for Combating Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that it had uncovered a cell of the Egyptian Islamist organization Takfir wal-Hijra, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

On 22 April the men were convicted in a trial at Moscow District Military Court.

The assertion in the judgment that the defendants were members of Takfir wal-Hijra is unsubstantiated. No such charges were not brought against them, nor were they considered by the court. Moreover, experts doubt that this organization exists.

It can be seen on the police video of the search, a copy of which is in the possession of Memorial, that the police were not concerned that the persons in question could set off an explosion. They assure the bomb disposal expert that ‘everything had been made safe.’ The bomb disposal experts who conducted a ‘test explosion’ of the materials concluded that it was a fake device (in other words, the substance was not capable of a dangerous explosion).

Neither the investigation nor the trial established the origin of the munitions, nor by whom, how, or when the alleged device was prepared or taken to the apartment, or to whom it in fact belonged.

This gives grounds to suppose that the weapons and munitions were planted, and the case fabricated.

Finally, the judgment handed down did not establish the purpose or motives of those convicted of preparing an ‘explosion using an improvised explosive device in the Kirghiziya Cinema.’ The absence of an intention means that there are no grounds to bring charges under Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code. In short, no evidence for the preparation of a terrorist act in the Kirghiziya Cinema was heard in court.

The fabrication of criminal cases of terrorism is one of the main reasons for the increase in the number of political prisoners in Russia since 2000. As a rule, the victims of ‘anti-terrorist’ repressive measures are residents of the North Caucasus and Muslims.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers the following to be political prisoners: Tazhib Makhmudov, Artur Maslakov, Imran, Artur and Anzor Tekilov, Tagir Akhtakhanov, Sergei Cheprasov, Matliub Nasimov, Islam Ramazanov, Aslan Suleimanov, Khoso Esmurzaev, Adam Shavkhalov, Ersmak Saraliev, Nurmagomed Balakadashev and Inyal Balakadashev.

We demand that the conviction be quashed, that there be an impartial review of the case, and that those responsible for the fabrication be brought to justice.

For more information about this case, see here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not mean that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves of the individual’s views, statements or actions.

OVD-Info: The Russian authorities’ clampdown on activism and freedom of assembly continues

posted 21 Apr 2017, 08:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Apr 2017, 08:10 ]

21 April 2017

Rights in Russia republishes a translation by OpenDemocracy of OVD-Info's weekly summary of its work monitoring politically-motivated arrests in Russia 

Use of force against a police officer, insulting religious believers' feelings, taking a selfie with an Easter egg — these are just some of the pretexts used against active citizens in Russia. Русский

After we reported last week that Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into Moscow’s anti-corruption protests on 26 March, we now have details of the charges against one of the four detainees, Yuri Kuliy. He is being charged on the basis of putting his hand on the shoulder of a riot policeman. Another detainee, Alexander Shpakov, who apparently hit a police lieutenant, reveals how he was beaten during arrest.

There’s signs that local authorities in Petrozavodsk, Karelia will open a criminal case against one of the participants in the anti-corruption protests. And we publish the story of Alexei Minyailo, who was detained on 26 March, but managed to avoid administrative arrest.

Vyacheslav Maltsev, the Russian nationalist politician who suffered a heart attack during transit last week, and Konstantin Zelenin, his aide, have now been detained for a further 15 days on administrative arrest.

In several regions, the authorities have increased restrictions on freedom of assembly. In Tomsk, for example, the authorities moved a space for meetings from the centre into an industrial zone; and in Samara, the authorities excluded a meeting space which had previously hosted anti-corruption protests. In Tatarstan, the rules governing the holding of demonstrations have been made more complicated.

The organisers of the countrywide “I’ve had enough” demonstration, set for 29 April, have come under pressure. In Novosibirsk, the organiser of a local protest (otherwise permitted by the authorities) has been threatened with a criminal case for extremism.

Insulting the believers

On 20 April, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organisation and liquidated it. During the legal process, Ministry of Justice representatives requested that all local Jehovah’s Witness organisations also be liquidated.

We publish the story of Igor Martynenko, an Irkutsk anarchist activist detained as part of an investigation into insulting religious believers’ feelings. This week, Martynenko was sent to administrative detention once again for not carrying out a police officer’s orders. You can also watch the video of the interrogation of Ruslan Sokolovsky, the Ekaterinburg blogger who also accused of offending religious believers’ feelings, as well as spreading hate and possession of a “spy pen”.

Finally, it turns out you’re not allowed to take selfies with Easter eggs. Pavel Lobkov, an employee of Dozhd TV, was detained (and later fined) in Moscow this week for photographing himself in a penis outfit next to a Easter-themed egg.

In Chuvashia, activists were detained for photographing themselves with easter eggs that spelled out the phrase “Freedom to [Vyacheslav] Maltsev”.

Freedom of assembly

This week, the Petersburg police have been busy: they’ve detained long-distance truck drivers, Other Russia activists for their demonstration “Taking the Smolny” (they were kept at the police station for two days) and people participating in walks of the “New opposition” (who also spent two days in the police station).

In Sochi, participants of an anti-corruption protest were also detained and later sentenced to administrative detention. In Moscow, police tried to disperse the truck drivers’ camp, and in Zabaikalye, a man standing with a picket against the Platon system was arrested for five days.

Criminal cases

In Karelia and Kirov, prison authorities are opening fresh cases against inmates who complain of torture.

Darya Polyudova, the Kuban left-wing activist who received a two-year sentence on separatism charges for posts on social media, has had her request for early release refused. Another “online separatist” Vladimir Khagdaev, from Buryatia, received a three-year suspended sentence.Alexander Belov, co-chairman of the “Russians” ethnopolitical association, had his sentence reduced from 7.5 years to 3.5 years. Belov was sentenced on financial manipulation charges, spreading hate, creating an extremist organisation and calls for extremism.

What we’re reading

- Meduza’s story on how demonstrations against utilities tariff hikes in Novosibirsk worked.

- “Are you Semyon?”: the story of Semyon Simonov, a Sochi rights defender, about his detention in Volgograd.

- Snob shows how people are going to prison for “use of force against police officers”.
What’s next

On 25 April, Moscow city court will examine a petition against the arrest of Dmitry Bogatov, who’s charged with preparing mass unrest in connection with anonymous calls to demonstrate on Red Square on 2 April.
Thank you

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can OVD-Info here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

OVD-Info: Bolotnaya 2.0?

posted 14 Apr 2017, 11:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Apr 2017, 11:58 ]

14 April 2017

Source: OVD-Info [this translation republished by kind permission of OpenDemocracy

OpenDemocracy continues its partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, OpenDemocracy publishes the latest information on freedom of assembly from OVD-Info.

This week, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that four people have been arrested in connection with the events of 26 March, when anti-corruption protests were held across the country. Alexander Shapkov, Stanislav Zimovets, Yuri Kuliy and Andrei Kosykh are all accused of assaulting police officers.

Dmitry Bogatov, a maths teacher from Moscow, has also been arrested in connection with an investigation into calls for mass unrest on 2 April, when unknown people called for a demonstration on Red Square. To keep Bogatov under arrest, the investigators have added more serious charges, including preparing to organise mass unrest and justifying terrorism. You can read more about criminal and administrative investigations, as well as informal pressure, against people in connection with 26 March protests here.

These investigations are reminiscent of the 2012 Bolotnaya Case, which, with over 30 people arrested and imprisoned in connection with protests on 6 May 2012, continues to intimidate activist networks and potential protesters to this day.

Don’t comply

Friday 13 April saw house searches and arrests against nationalist activists in Moscow and Saratov. Ivan Beletsky and Yuri Gorsky, organisers of the annual “Russian March”, had their apartments searched in Moscow, and Beletsky was later questioned (and released) in connection with the criminal case against 26 March participants. That same morning, police searched the home of Vyacheslav Maltsev, a popular blogger and self-described “national democrat” politician. Maltsev was then transferred from Saratov to Moscow, but suffered a heart attack en route. Upon arrival in Moscow, Maltsev was charged with not complying with a legal order given by a police officer in connection with 26 March.

Another criminal case in connection with 26 March was opened in Irkutsk. On 8 April, local police arrested several people who had participated in the anti-corruption protests. They had planned to hold a meeting on 9 April in connection with 26 March. Later it turned out that one of them, Dmitry Litvin, is facing charges of insulting believers’ feelings for a publication on social media, and the other individuals will act as witnesses. However, at the Center for Combatting Terrorism, they were questioned about the protests and calls to terrorism. The police had trouble finding one of them, Igor Martynenko, a prominent Irtkutsk activist, before realizing that he’d already been arrested for 10 days on “non-compliance” charges. Martynenko’s case was later sent for further examination by the court, but the activist remains under arrest.

Meanwhile, across Russia, courts continue to process cases against people who participated in anti-corruption demonstrations. Check out our survey text on how these courts are organised in Moscow. There’s violations a-plenty, of course — in Petersburg, judges are sending people’s cases back to investigators en masse; and in Chelyabinsk, police officers rewrote a report full of mistakes in the courtroom corridor. The directors of Moscow schools have started being summoned to the Investigative Committee.

Closed Russia

The authorities are conducting searches not only against Russian citizens involved in 26 March. For instance, activists with Open Russia are experiencing pressure in various regions — in Irkutsk, police carried out a search at the home of an Open Russia coordinator; and in Izhevsk, police searched the home of Mikhail Nazarov, an Open Russia activist who was preparing to join a congress in Tallin. Police removed Nazarov’s foreign passport, and then opened a criminal case against him.

Russia’s long-distance truckers are still striking across the country, and police are drawing up reports against them for solitary pickets, even if people are only preparing to hold them. The police are not only pressuring the truck drivers, but people who are supporting them. In Yeisk, for example, two National Bolshevik activists were given 15 days of administrative detention — the party connects this to their active support for the strike.

Detentions against other actions continue — for instance, for reading out the Russian Constitution (which protects freedom of assembly) on Red Square.

What we’re reading

- MediaZona speaks to Irkutsk activists about detentions in the investigation into “insulting believers’ feelings”

- We look at two cases of people detained on 26 March. The first, who was arrested for 10 days for a folded-up placard; the second fined for 20,000 roubles for “shouting slogans” and “blocking the road” on 26 March

- Meduza explains in detail what’s wrong with the case against Moscow maths teacher Dmitry Bogatov
Thank you

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

Statement of the Russian LGBT Network’s Board regarding the information on the kidnappings and murders of LGBT people in the North Caucasus

posted 10 Apr 2017, 08:10 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Apr 2017, 08:12 ]

2 April 2017

Source: Facebook 

The Russian LGBT Network is highly disturbed and concerned about the information on the kidnapping and killing of people in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. We are also outraged by the reaction of the officials of the Chechen Republic, who in fact justify the killings. No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to “traditions” to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal.

The Russian LGBT Network makes every effort to contact the victims and to provide the emergency support. Taking into account the recent statements of the Chechnya officials, we believe that the only thing that can work out is the evacuation. We cooperate closely we the human rights defenders both in Russia and abroad, and ready to evacuate.

On Monday, the Russian LGBT Network will appeal to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation with two claims. The one is the demand to investigate the information on the crimes, published in “Novaya Gazeta”. Another one is the claim to check whether the public statements of the Chechen officials made on April 1 and justifying the killings, contain the elements of the offence.

We are grateful to everyone who contacted us and asked how they can help. What do we need now?
- Help us to spread the information about the fact that the Russian LGBT Network is ready to evacuate people. Please think for whom this information can be useful. You can spread the information publicly or personally. Everyone who needs help can contact us by email or call the Hotline (8 800 555 73 74). The call is free all over Russia. 
- In accordance with the Russian legislation, every citizen can apply to the Investigative Committee with the demand to investigate the information about the crime published in mass media. We encourage everyone to apply (the template of the claim will be published tomorrow).

We understand that many people want to help those in need. But please remember that any uncoordinated actions can put in additional danger people in need and those who are ready to help. Therefore, we do not recommend to collect the addresses of people who are ready to provide temporarily shelter.

Be aware, that the situation with the human rights in the North Caucasus is truly difficult. Now people’s lives are endangered and the only way to help is the evacuation. The Russian LGBT Network has the necessary resources to evacuate people, there is a team that already makes every effort to safe lives. That is why we ask everyone to share with us the information about people in need and any offers of assistance.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: The prosecutions of Krasnoyarsk Muslims Andrei Dedkov and Andrei Rekst are politically motivated

posted 4 Apr 2017, 04:43 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Apr 2017, 04:43 ]

21 March 2017

Andrei Dedkov, a Muslim from Krasnoyarsk, was held in a pre-trial detention facility from April 2016 until March 2017 on charges of organizing a cell of ‘Nurdzhular,’ a religious association ruled to be extremist in Russia. At present, he is awaiting trial and under travel restrictions. In the same case Andrei Rekst, who is now on bail, is also a defendant. According to investigators, Rekst was a participant in the cell organized by Dedkov.

Memorial considers the prosecutions of Dedkov and Rekst to be politically motivated. While Dedkov was in detention, he was a political prisoner. We shall also consider them to be political prisoners if they are sentenced to terms in prison and are detained.

Dedkov and Rekst have been charged under Section 1 and Section 2, respectively, of Article 282.2 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation (organizing the activity [Section 1] or participating in the activity [Section 2] of an NGO or religious organization or other organization that has been closed, or had its activities banned, by court decision on grounds of extremism that has entered into force, with the exception of organizations that in accordance with Russian law have been designated as terrorist). Dedkov faces up to 10 years in prison, and Rekst up to four years.

It is not the first time that the Russian authorities have prosecuted Muslims who study and disseminate books from the Risale-i-Nur Collection (‘The Epitomes of Light’) by the Turkish theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877 — 1960). In 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the international religious association Nurdzhular, of which allegedly the followers of Nursi are members, was an extremist organization. The law enforcement bodies consistently call ‘Nurdzhular’ an organization ‘with an evident structure’ that disseminates Islamic and Turkish political influence in the world.

However, in reality, all that exists is an apolitical community of people who consider themselves followers of the teachings contained in Risale-i-Nur, communicate with each other and hold joint readings. As yet no evidence of the existence of a structured organization, directed from Turkey, has been presented, and we suggest that this notion is an invention of the Russian authorities. The fabricated cases that have followed one another have been filled with new details of unsubstantiated charges: collaboration with the CIA, efforts to violate the territorial integrity of Russia, and so on.

So far as the writings themselves are concerned, in 2007 14 translations of works by Nursi were banned by a decision of the Koptevsky district court in Moscow. We consider this ban, like the ban on Nurdzhular that followed, to be groundless. A number of the arguments put forward by the experts on which the court based its judgment are absurd. For example, in the religious literature the experts found passages containing condemnation of sinners (and even self-criticism by someone who had repented) and passages intended to frighten atheists with retribution after death, and on this basis drew the conclusion that the texts are extremist and incite religious discord.

Moreover, in Nursi’s books there are no calls to violence or terrorism, nor hate speech. The Council of Muftis of Russia, the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Russia and the Sova Research Centre have all stated that the writings of Nursi represent no danger to society and do not contain any propaganda of violence. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged that the ban on these writings be reviewed.

We find no grounds to prosecute people who read, whether individually or in a group, the books of Said Nursi. Such prosecutions are only motivated by the desire of law enforcement bodies to create the illusion that they are combating organized extremism.

We believe that the followers of Said Nursi are subject to prosecution solely for their religious convictions and their nonviolent realisation of the right to freedom of thought and conscience.

We demand that all charges against Andrei Dedkov and Andrei Rekst be dropped, and also that bans on religious literature that does not incite violence be lifted.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not mean that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves of the individual’s views, statements or actions.

More information about the case of Andrei Dedkov and Andrei Rekst can be read here.

1-10 of 46