Rights Groups in Russia

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OVD-Info Weekly bulletin No. 76: Putin’s birthday, films about political persecution, and a look into life for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been banned in Russia

posted 14 Oct 2018, 11:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Oct 2018, 11:59 ]

12 October 2018


OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here


Greetings to our readers!


Activists across Russia have been detained after sending Putin birthday greetings:


  • Activists in St Petersburg let off flares and displayed a banner reading “Wishing you many years of prison”. Four of them were detained. They were later arrested and held in custody for periods ranging from 5 to 15 days.


  • In Moscow, 3 members of the protest movement Spring (Vesna) were detained after displaying a map of Russia decorated with “all sorts of facts” about the country – facts like “One million heroin addicts”.

  • In Kazan, three participants of the “Perpetual Protest” movement were detained after they tried to hang a banner reading “Happy birthday, liar and thief” from a bridge.


  • Four people have been detained in Pskov after displaying a range of placards. One of them read: “Putin is 66 and what has he done? He has surrounded himself with corrupt people, crooks and conmen. Theft from the state budget has become the norm.”


In Omsk, the Investigative Committee of Russia opened an investigation into the actions of the police who broke the sternum of a detained picketer. The mother of three from Omsk joined a single picket line outside the city council building, with a placard reading “Our children want to go outside, wash and drink clean water.” The police forcefully detained her, and she was later diagnosed with a broken sternum and bruising on both sides of her chest.

Media reports state that the authorities in Ingushetia have cut off mobile networks and internet in the region for over a week. Journalist Isabella Evloeva recounted how the locals invited her into their homes so that she could use their home internet to send out material about rallies against the transfer to Chechnya of part of Ingushetian territory.

Three alleged members of Aum Shinrikyo were put on an international wanted list and arrested in absentia. One of them was the subject of our story about a criminal case on involvement in the organisation. He told us that during the interrogation he was beaten, threatened and forced to testify against people he did not know.



There have been several developments in cases relating to social media posts:


  • Dmitry Litvin, an anarchist from Irkutsk, refused an offer to close the case against him, in which he is accused of offending religious believers by taking a photograph with his middle finger displayed in front of a church. The courts offered to close the case due to its expired limitation period. Litvin claimed that this would mean admitting his guilt, and therefore refused.


  • The case against Maria Motuzinaya, who is being prosecuted for her memes on Russian social networking site VKontakte, has been returned to the prosecution. Motuzinaya’s lawyers expect the case to be dropped in the near future, and Motuzinaya to be acquitted.


  • The courts in Barnaul have overturned a conditional sentence handed down to a neo-paganist woman for her posts on Vkontakte.



  • In Saratov, a new criminal case has been brought against the author of humorous songs about the courts. She has now been accused of contempt of court and of defamation against the courts. The woman in question had posted songs about the courts on YouTube. She had initially been charged with incitement of hatred or hostility because of these videos, but the case was later dropped.



Our publications


Article series: 10 documentary films worth watching about political persecution in Russia. Sergey Loznitsa’s film The Trial, which reconstructs one of the first show trials at the start of the Great Terror; a biopic of Boris Nemtsov; a series by Andrey Loshak about young Navalny supporters; a film about the National Bolshevik party, The Revolution that Wasn’t, which has been criticised by Limonov, and many others – once you have watched these films, you can cry, drink and discuss Russia’s fate.


“There were instances where children were taken away. Parents went to pick up their children from kindergarten, only to be told that the FSB had come, accompanied by a social worker, and taken away their child.” Over the last year and a half, over 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been arrested in Russia and several thousand have gone abroad having given up their jobs, their loved ones, and often their property. OVD-Info spoke with Jehovah’s Witnesses about their life as outlaws.


«There’s 3 loudmouths out on the street, go and arrest them”. On Saturday, Galina Zubareva was arrested at a jazz festival at the city hall with participants from the Perpetual Protest. She told OVD-Info about protesters being chased by Russia’s anti-extremism forces, which riled up the Tverskoy local police department.


“And into that dirty, squalid department came a wonderful girl with a bag full of water and other supplies – it was as if an angel had descended from heaven. I realised how desperately she was needed by anyone who had ended up there. They needed her both psychologically and physically.” Read our story about the human rights activists from Nizhny Novgorod who have been helping political prisoners and people arrested at protest rallies.


Thanks!

Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Translated by Judith Fagelson


OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 75: How to survive house arrest, Oleg Sentsov ends his hunger strike, and proposed decriminalisation of Article 282

posted 7 Oct 2018, 05:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Oct 2018, 05:49 ]

5 October 2018

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here



Greetings to our readers!


We hope that your past week has been a good one, and if not, then we wish you a good rest over the weekend. Let’s begin with some good news!

The Investigative Committee has dropped charges against the organiser of rallies against the waste dump in Volokolamsk. Аrtem Liubimov had been charged with failing to inform the state about his dual nationality. The activist himself denies he has dual nationality.


  • Since the spring of this year, residents of Volokolamsk have been campaigning against the Yadrovo waste dump. Over seven days in March, more than 500 residents of the town, including 418 children, had told doctors they felt unwell because of the gas released from the waste dump.


In Ingushetia, at a rally against changing the borders with Chechnya, law enforcement officers fired into the air. Two participants in the protest were jailed for 12 days, the homes of local activists were searched, and civil servants were threatened with dismissal for taking part in the protests.


  • The protests in Magas and Sunzha began on 25 September after it became known that Isa Khashagulgov, head of Sunzha district, had resigned. Activists took Khashagulgov’s resignation as a protest against the transfer to Chechnya of part of the territory of Ingushetia. On 26 September it became know the heads of Chechnya and Ingushetia had signed an agreement about the exchange of territory between the two republics.


The lawyer acting for Vyacheslav Kriukov, charged in the New Greatness case, has said his client’s health is in a critical state. Kriukov has been on hunger strike for nearly one month. Since the start of his hunger strike, Kriukov has lost 13 kilograms. We have published the diary Kriukov has kept since he went on hunger strike.

“145 days of struggle, 20kgs weight lost, health undermined, but the purpose not achieved.” Oleg Sentsov has decided to end his hunger strike. According to Sentsov, prison officers intended him to force feed him.

A complaint to the police about the almanac “moloko plus” was written by an activist of the pro-Kremlin National Liberation Movement. He had not read a single issue of the journal. It was after this complaint that police broke up the presentation of the almanac in Nizhny Novgorod and submitted the confiscated issues for a formal evaluation. In July the police broke up the presentation of the almanac in Krasnodar. Participants in "moloko plus" have told OVD-Info how these events took place.


In Karelia the historian Sergei Koltyrin has been remanded in custody in connection with an investigation into an alleged case of paedophilia. Кoltyrin and his acquaintance Evgeny Nosov have been charged with sexual abuse of a 12-year-old. Sergei Koltyrin oversaw the excavations at Sandarmokh conducted by the Russian Military and Historical Society. Koltyrin criticized the view of Karelian historians that Sandarmokh could contain the remains of the victims of the Finnish occupation of 1941–1944, insisting that the grounds only contained the remains of executed political prisoners. One of the discoverers of Sandarmokh, the head of the local branch of Memorial, Yury Dmitriev has also been charged with sexual abuse of a minor.


Our publications


Howo survive house arrest: the stories of political prisoners. The mothers of Anna Pavlikova and Mariya Dubovik, as well as former political prisoners Dmitry Bogatov, Ruslan Sokolovsky and Dmitry Buchenkov, tell us  why those under house arrest are more likely to become bored than keep themselves busy when they are not allowed to leave home.


“They rubbed my face with their boots.” On 5 November 2017 Rostov-on-Don residents Yan Sidorov and Vyacheslav Mordasov held a protest beside the monument to the First Cavalry Army (locally known as the “Horse with Balls”) on Ploshchad Sovetov. Mordasov stood with a placard that read, “Government Must Resign”, while Sidorov held a placard reading, “Rostov residents whose homes were burnt down must get their land back.” The two were detained and charged with attempting to take part in, and organise, a riot. The basis of the charges were inflammatory remarks on the Telegram social media network that the defendants did not write. We explain what is problematic about this case.


A picture with a raised middle finger, a pro-Ukrainian stance, and the statue to the Motherland with green paint on its face. Vladimir Putin has proposed amendments to Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code that has been used, among other things, to prosecute people for internet posts. If the proposal is adopted, criminal liability will only arise after a repeat violation. But prosecutions for posts can be conducted using other articles of the Criminal Code. We explain which articles of the Criminal Code can be used in this way and relate the stories of seven people so prosecuted

Thanks!


Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.


Memorial Human Rights Centre: Ukrainian citizen Roman Ternovsky, convicted of participation in Right Sector, is a political prisoner

posted 30 Sep 2018, 10:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Sep 2018, 10:56 ]

24 September 2018





Ukrainian citizen Roman Ternovsky has been convicted of participation in the activities of an extremist organisation (Article 282.2, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced to twenty-seven months in a general-regime prison colony. The Pervomaisky district court in Rostov-on-Don found Ternovsky guilty of participating, when he lived in Kharkiv, in the activities of the local branch of Right Sector. The defendant agreed to a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to all charges.

We have studied the materials of the case in detail and have concluded that the Russian investigatory bodies and the prosecution in fact charged Ternovsky with taking part in peaceful demonstrations, that sometimes possibly bordered on petty hooliganism, and other forms of legal public activities on the territory of Ukraine.

While Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code establishes the formal definition of the offence (to be convicted, it is enough to be complicit in a banned group), according to the Russian Criminal Code, to constitute a crime, an act must be dangerous to the public. We consider that the activities of Right Sector in Ukraine were not directed at the “violent change of the foundations of the constitutional order, the violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation, or the undermining of the security of the state.”

The arguments on which the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation based its decision of 17 November 2014 banning Right Sector do not stand up to criticism. The ban was based on unfounded speculation and unchecked facts, including a fake “appeal by Dmitry Yarosh to Doku Umarov” (of which Right Sector has denied authorship). We consider that a criminal prosecution cannot be based on a decision of such poor quality.

For this reason, we believe Ternovsky has been deprived of liberty in the absence of any real offence. In contemporary Russia, attempts to combat Right Sector have taken the form of a “witch hunt,” part of a political campaign directly linked to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

We demand that Roman Ternovsky be released, and that all prosecutions of individuals based solely on participation in Right Sector be dropped.

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

More information about this case can be read on the
website of Memorial Human Rights Centre.


Memorial Human Rights Centre: The members of New Greatness are political prisoners

posted 30 Sep 2018, 10:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Sep 2018, 10:53 ]

23 September 2018




Ten opposition-minded residents of Moscow and Moscow region have been charged with creating an extremist group, ‘New Greatness,’ in December 2017, allegedly for the purposes of the violent overthrow of the government and constitutional order of Russia (Article 282.1 of the Russian Criminal Code).

Having attentively studied the materials of the case, we have concluded that the New Greatness association was, essentially, set up by Russian security services. It was they who strove to give the organisation an extremist character.

One of the founders and leaders of New Greatness, known to members of the group as ‘Ruslan D,’ is evidently an agent of the law enforcement agencies (probably the FSB). When he was questioned as a witness, the official record named him as Aleksandr Konstantinov (no other personal information about him was made public). He was a member of the board of the organisation, head of its financial department, and its secretary.

With the help of Ruslan D., the security services themselves drew up the charter and programme of New Greatness in such a way that it appeared to be an extremist organisation. They also hired an office for the group that was bugged. When Anya Pavlikova, a minor, left the group because of a quarrel, the agent persuaded her to return. However, one month later she was arrested. Pavlikova has since spent six months in pre-trial detention, with serious injury to her health.

Apart from Ruslan D., two other police officers were infiltrated into New Greatness and, evidently, there were one or two informers.

However, despite the efforts of the provocateurs, the political programme, charter and leaflets of New Greatness contain no specific statements or provisions indicating that its members intend to overthrow the government by violent means or change the constitutional order of Russia by violence. Texts published on the organisation’s website contain no direct calls to violence.

“The so-called New Greatness case is a symbol of the brutality and unjust nature of the struggle against ‘extremism’ in contemporary Russia,” said Sergei Davidis, head of the programme of support for political prisoners at Memorial Human Rights Centre. “The group of opposition-minded young people became a victim of a provocation by the authorities. They did not commit any acts of violence, nor did they plan any acts of terror or attacks. They have been charged exclusively in connection with conversations and actions that did not violate the law, and that have been declared criminal only because they allegedly took place in the framework of an ‘extremist organisation’ founded by a security service officer who had infiltrated their community.

The suspects maintain their innocence. They do not deny taking part in New Greatness, but assert they were engaged in lawful activities and had no intention of overthrowing the government and constitutional order by violent means.

A petition to the leadership of Russia drawn up by the Novaya gazeta newspaper, which is open for signing on the Change.org website, states: “Almost one third of the group, which consisted of 13 persons, were representatives of various law enforcement agencies who, evidently, competed with one another in creating and supporting this organisation, not for the purpose of some mythical ‘overthrow of the constitutional order,’ but in order to open a criminal investigation against the members. Compliance with the law in the New Greatness case would mean dropping all charges against the persons concerned. Whether this happens, we consider to be a question of political will. The failure of the provocation initiated by Ruslan D. is obvious, and it is in the best interests of the security services themselves that practices of this kind by those in their ranks are ended. We consider the actions of law enforcement agents in this case constitute a ‘political provocation,’ banned under Article 5 of the law ‘On Investigative Actions’: ‘bodies conducting investigative actions are banned from inciting, persuading, or instigating either directly or indirectly the commission of unlawful acts (provocation).”

Memorial considers Anna Pavlikova, Mariya Dubovik, Ruslan Kostylenkov, Maksim Roshchin, Petr Karamzin, Pavel Rebrovsky, Dmitry Poletaev, Sergei Gavrilov, Vyacheslav Kriukov and Rustam Rustamov to be political prisoners and demands their immediate release and the punishment of those guilty of their criminal prosecution.

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

We invite you to join our support group for the defendants.

For more information about this case, see 
here.


OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 74: Criminal prosecutions, repeat jail terms, and “enemies of the people”

posted 30 Sep 2018, 10:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Sep 2018, 10:48 ]

28 September 2018


OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here



Greetings to our readers! We’ll just say that we love you. After all, the summer is over, but we all still need to feel warm.


Great news! Dmitry Krepkin, convicted in the “Case of 26 March” has been released. His sentence was recalculated in accordance with new legislation. Krepkin was arrested at a protest that took place following the release of the film “He’s not Dimon to you!”, when prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev failed to respond to accusations of corruption. Krepkin was charged with having struck the left thigh of riot police officer Mikhail Zvonarev, as a result of which the latter “experienced physical pain.” Krepkin himself maintains he did not strike the law enforcement officer, but hit the police officer’s baton.


Pictured: Vyacheslav Kriukov (in the blue t-shirt wearing glasses) and Ruslan Kostylenkov at the remand extension hearing / Photo: Sota Vision

Fallout from 9 September protests against pension reform continue to be felt:

  • In Moscow Aleksei Navalny was detained at the exit from the detention centre where he had served a 30-day jail sentence. He was immediately jailed for 20 more days. Meanwhile, in Khabarovsk, Aleksei Vorsin, coordinator of Navalny’s local campaign office who had just served a 15-day jail term, was again jailed for another 15 days.

  • Two charges have been brought against the lawyer Mikhail Benyash who was beaten up on 9 September. He has been charged with using force against a police officer and hindering the course of justice. He has been remanded in custody for two months.

  • In Chelyabinsk a woman participant in a 9 September protest is under investigation for the criminal offence of insulting a police officer.

  • In Kostroma police officers visited a high school to interview a female school student who took part in a 9 September protest. In Saratov State Medical University a planned talk with students about drugs was in fact used to inform students that those who took part in protests organised by Aleksei Navalny would be expelled.

  • In St. Petersburg deputies in the city’s legislative assembly refused to investigate the actions of the authorities in breaking up a protest rally. Those detained at the 9 September protest in St. Petersburg reported police brutality and the beating of participants.

Police in Germany have placed a guard on Petr Verzilov, his family and close friends following his poisoning. Verzilov himself declared that the Russian security services could have poisoned him. The police guard was provided after activists noticed they were being followed by unknown persons. Verzilov has already left the hospital. He thinks the reason for his poisoning could be either the Pussy Riot protest in support of political prisoners during the FIFA World Cup, or his participation in the independent investigation into the murder of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic.

Organisers of rallies are now obliged to notify the authorities in the event a planned public activity that has received official permission is cancelled not later than one day before it was due to take place. Fines for failing to notify the authorities in such cases will be from 5,000 roubles to 20,000 roubles for individuals, from 10,000 roubles to 30,000 roubles for public officials, and from 20,000 roubles to 100,000 roubles for legal entities.

Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike has now entered its 138th day. On Wednesday, human rights defender Zoya Svetova received a letter from Sentsov dated 25 September: “My thanks to all those who continue to support me despite this long-drawn-out endless marathon and, most important, and all the other Ukrainian political prisoners. They are not giving in, and nor am I. I believe in a successful outcome, despite everything. Nothing is forever, even what is bad! I did not expect that I would manage to last so long, and I don’t know how long I will be able to last. But I won’t give in! And I wish the same same to you all. Greetings to all good people!”


Texts


“Something hurts inside my chest between my ribs, my throat hurts a great deal. It is freezing from time to time. They say you can drink tea with sugar and other drinks, without ending your hunger strike, but none of this has been looked into yet. Generally speaking, everyone is telling me to stop doing what I intend to do.” Twenty-year-old Vyacheslav Kriukov is a second-year student at the Russian State University of Law. He has been charged with organising an extremist group called New Greatness. On 11 September Kriukov declared a hunger strike after his term in pre-trial detention was extended. He has been on hunger strike for 17 days now. We have published the diary Vyacheslav has kept during his hunger strike.

On the doors of the apartment the neighbours write: “Here live the children of an enemy of the people.” Gennady Kravtsov, husband of Alla Terekhova, worked for the GRU [a military intelligence agency], then resigned and several years later sent his CV to an organisation in Sweden. Ten years later he was charged with treason, on grounds of that very letter. Gennady has three children. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, although the sentence was later reduced to six years. You can read an interview with Alla produced as part of a project by Team 29 about treason, espionage and state secrets in contemporary Russia.


“Many don’t like what he is doing.” A journalist from the village of Dobroe, Dmitry Pashinov, almost died in 2011 when he was working on an investigative report. In 2013 someone fired into the window of his home with a non-lethal pistol. In 2018 Pashinov published compromising material about Valery Malikov, a member of United Russia party and head of the village administration. In response, Malikov demanded that the journalist undergo a psychiatric examination. We Рpublish an account of freedom of expression in the village of Dobroe.


Thanks!

Every day we publish the latest news and assist people who have been arrested. We are very much in need of your help. After all, everything that we do is done with your support.


You can sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info here. With your help, we’ll be able to continue to produce your favourite Weekly Bulletin into the future.


OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 73: Arrests and convictions for exercising right of assembly continue. An update on cases and other issues.

posted 21 Sep 2018, 12:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Sep 2018, 04:30 ]

21 September 2018


OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here

Greetings to our readers!


Sometimes people ask us, “What do you do when there aren't any big protests going on?” As you can see from our Weekly Bulletin, we have more than enough work to do even when it seems things are quiet. Political persecution has no respect for weekends or vacations.


Arrests and convictions of participants in the protests against the pension reform on 9 September continue. As a rule, fines are imposed, and these are for large sums: in Murmansk, Samara, Primorye individuals have been fined 150,000 roubles each, in Тiumen as much as 280,000! In Krasnodar the coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s local campaign office, Razmik Simonyan, jailed before the protest, was detained again as soon as he left the detention centre, and the next day was jajiled again for five days. Meanwhile, in Ekaterinburg a participant in the protest,  Irina Norman, who suffers from epilepsy, was jailed.



Photo: Oyub Titiev, Head of the Chechen branch of Memorial. Photo: Polina Glukhova, OVD-Info


A Moscow high school student detained on 9 September was questioned at police headquarters at No. 38 Petrovka Street: the police asked about her classmates at school. Subsequently, one of these other students was questioned by an officer from the police department for combating extremism on the school premises.


More than 600 people were arrested on 9 September in St. Petersburg. A week later another protest against the pension reform was held without official permission. This time only three people were arrested at the protest itself. However, the police began a vigorous search for local activist Shakhnaz Shitik. After she had photographed a police officer at the protest, they tried to arrest her, injured her and set off tear gas in her face. After that Shitik had been taken to a hospital, police also tried to arrest her there. In the upshot, her husband was taken to a police station, and police officers kept watch on her in the hospital. Shitik was then taken several times from the hospital to the police station and back until, finally, she was kept overnight at the police station. A court ruled Shitik should serve 20 days in jail for participation in a performance protest that depicted Putin being chased by pensioners. In addition, Shitik was questioned regarding a suspected criminal offence of insulting a public official: a police officer from the anti-extremism department who had pretended to be a journalist at the hospital had taken offence at something she said.


In various towns police have arrested participants in an “Ongoing Protest” that began after the demonstrations against pension reform on 9 September. Participants in the protest take part in walks and pickets against the president, government and pension reform.


The prison term handed down to Vyacheslav Shatrovsky has been reduced by three months. Shatrovsky, a resident of Kostroma region, was convicted of using force against a police officer during the so-called “Maltsev revolution” of 5 November 2017. On that day Shatrovsky himself received a head injury after a police officer threw him to the ground. A court of first instance sentenced Shatrovsky to three years in a prison colony. Before any appeal had been heard, Shatrovsky was then transferred to a prison colony. Now the court, reducing Shatrovsky’s sentence on health grounds, has recalculated his sentence in accordance with the new law that counts days spent on remand (including the time in the prison colony prior to the hearing of his appeal) as one-and-a-half days of his sentence. If nothing changes, Shatrovsky should be released on 25 February 2020.


A court has also recalculated the sentence handed down to Dmitry Krepkin, convicted in the “Case of 26 March.”  Krepkin was sentenced to 18 months in a prison colony for kicking a riot police officer in the thigh, although the alleged blow is not visible on a video recording of the incident on which the prosecution was based. If the prosecutor’s office does not contest the court decision, Krepkin can be released in nine days’ time.


Doctors at the German clinic where Petr Verzilov, publisher of Mediazona, is being treated, have stated he might have been a victim of poisoning. Before the incident, Verzilov was investigating the death of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic.


How investigations are conducted in treason cases. “Sign the confession and we’ll give you eight years.” - “What do I have to sign?” - “Don’t worry, we’ll write it for you, and you just sign.” In the framework of a project by Team 29, an association of lawyers, “The full history of treason, espionage and state secrets in contemporary Russia,” we spoke with the daughter of Petr Parpulov, an air traffic control officer from Sochi sentenced to 20 years in a strict regime prison for a conversation with a Georgian official.


We have also looked into how cases against alleged extremist groups are investigated. Political scientist Petr Miloserdov, who was a witness in the prosecution of nationalist Aleksandr Belov, was made a defendant “to make up the numbers,” because there needs to be more than one person in an alleged “group.”


In Nizhny Novgorod, anti-extremism police attended the presentation of the almanac “moloko plus.” A number of journalists and others attending were detained, and the chief editor, Pasha Nikulin, kept in a police cell overnight, was jailed the next day for two days - the time he had spent in detention up to that moment.


A court in Chechnya ruled that a hearing in the trial of Oyub Titiev, head of the local branch of Memorial, should be held in camera, at the prosecutor's request, on the ground that personal information about police detectives might be made public when questioned as witnesses in the case. Titiev is charged with possessing drugs. He and his colleagues assert that the drugs were planted on him.

Thanks!

Each day we publish news reports and assist people who have been arrested and detained. We are in sore need of your support. After all, everything we do is thanks to your help. You can sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info here. That will mean we can continue to send out your favourite Weekly Bulletin in the future.


Memorial Human Rights Centre: Two residents of Bashkiria, convicted of membership in Tablighi Jamaat, are political prisoners

posted 19 Sep 2018, 12:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Sep 2018, 12:54 ]

17 September 2018





Memorial considers Aidar Galeev and Ilgiz Shakurov to be political prisoners and demands their release 

In May 2018 two residents of Bashkiria were convicted of taking part in an extremist organisation under Article 282.2, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code. Both men were sentenced by Ufa’s Lenin district court to two years in a prison colony. 

The charges related solely to the participation of the defendants in the international Islamic movement Tablighi Jamaat that was designated extremist by decision of the Supreme Court in 2009. We disagree with the position taken by the Supreme Court. There is no evidence that this group, active primarily in India and Pakistan, is associated with acts of terrorism or propaganda of violence. In the democratic countries of Western Europe and North America, Tablighi Jamaat is not banned. 

The defendants were jailed, as in other analogous cases, on grounds that they organised events “urging” Muslims to act in accordance with the norms of Islam, sought to persuade other Muslims to join the movement, organised and visited religious meetings, studied and collected literature published by Tablighi Jamaat. There was no question of any activities that represented a danger to the public. 

In our opinion, the conviction of Galeev and Shakurov, solely on the grounds they are participants in the Tablighi Jamaat movement, is discriminatory and violates international legal standards. The court’s decision to recognise the organisation as extremist and ban its activities in the country has no basis in law and contradicts Article 28 of the Russian Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of conscience and religion. 

It is evident that the Tablighi Jamaat case, like the cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, is one of a series of prosecutions conducted by the FSB to achieve “high results” (dozens of convictions) with minimal effort. The increase in severity, and arbitrary application, of anti-terrorist legislation has facilitated the prosecution of a very large number of cases for which there are no grounds whatsoever. We demand this pseudo-struggle against extremism be ended. We demand the release of Aidar Galeev and Ilgiz Shakurov. 

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

More information about this case is available here

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Rostov-on-Don student Yan Sidorov, charged with attempting to organise riots, is a political prisoner

posted 19 Sep 2018, 12:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Sep 2018, 12:52 ]

22 August 2018





Yan Sidorov, an 18-year-old student, has been charged with attempting to organise riots, an offence under Article 30 (section 3) and Article 212 (section 1) of the Russian Criminal Code, for which the penalty is up to 11 years and three months’ deprivation of liberty, and attempting to take part in riots, an offence under Article 30 (section 3) and Article 212 (section 2), for which the penalty is up to six years’ deprivation of liberty.

Sidorov has formally been held on remand since 10 November 2017. However, in real terms he has been behind bars since 5 November 2017 when he was detained on Ploshchad Sovetov, opposite the Rostov Region government building, where he was trying to organise a picket, and for which he was sentenced to a short jail term under administrative law.

The charges against Sidorov and the other defendants in the case - Vladislav Mordasov and Vyacheslav Shamshin - amount to the allegations that on 5 November 2017 they “actively sought to engage persons present in a protest action by means of the public demonstration of agitational materials, to draw together a crowd, and also to commit provocative actions in relation to police officers attempting to detain the said participants in the disorder and by that means trying to begin the said disorder.” In other words, they tried to hold a picket. At the same time, there are grounds to believe that only Sidorov and Mordasov knew each other, while Shamshin was forcibly brought to the place of the attempted picket by officers from the Centre for Combating Extremism, where they formally arrested him.

Analysis of the materials of the criminal case to which we have access allows us to state with certainty that Yan Sidorov and other defendants are innocent. The investigative officers cannot provide any material evidence that those accused actually tried to organise riots, or even plan them.

The version of the alleged offences set out by the investigative officers seems to us unlikely. All Sidorov’s testimony, on the contrary, is realistic, logical and coherent. He consistently asserts that he planned to hold a peaceful protest that had no relation to Artpodgotovka or Vyacheslav Maltsev and that he opposes the use of violence for political ends. On this basis, it seems much more likely that the two young people had planned to hold a picket and not to organise a riot or to try to overthrow the regional government. They were without weapons and merely held up placards that were not extremist in nature (“Return the land to the Rostov residents who lost their properties in the fire” and “The government must resign”), distributed leaflets and spoke over megaphones, having spent 3,500 roubles on the event. 

The official investigation fails to explain why, if Sidorov and Mordasov allegedly committed not even the “preparation” of the organisation of riots, but only an “attempt” to organise them, there was no evidence that these riots might begin. The notion that riots could begin as a result of the holding of an ordinary picket with quite ordinary demands is absurd. On that basis, an intention of this kind could be ascribed to any participant in any picket, including one that had official permission and was not taking place on 5 November 2017 but on any other day. There is no evidence that the alleged plan was realisable or had any objective basis. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Yan Sidorov a political prisoner and calls for his immediate release. 

At the present time we are not able to examine the materials of the cases against Vladislav Mordasov and Vyacheslav Shamshin. However, we plan to follow the course of their prosecutions and consider it highly likely that the charges against them have been fabricated. 

We demand that the public officials guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of those participants in public events and accidental passers-by detained on 5 November 2017 be brought to justice. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre continues to monitor the campaign of prosecutions with regard to those charged with preparing the “Revolution 5/11/17.” This campaign, which began in the autumn of 2017, has resulted in criminal charges being brought against dozens of persons, including charges of terrorism and of preparing riots. It is probable that a significant number of those charged are either innocent or have no relation whatsoever to Maltsev or Artpodgotovka, a group banned in Russia.

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

You can read more about this case here

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Twenty-nine Jehovah's Witnesses are political prisoners

posted 19 Sep 2018, 12:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Sep 2018, 12:50 ]

3 August 2018



Recent years have seen a campaign of persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This campaign became more widespread after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled, on 20 April 2017, that the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was an extremist organisation. The campaign intensified further in April 2018 when dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested in a number of Russian regions. Many of those arrested have since been remanded in custody as prosecutions have got underway.

Almost all of the defendants in these cases have been charged with offences under Article 282.2, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (organisation of the activity of a religious organisation closed for carrying out extremist activity, punishable by up to 10 years’ deprivation of liberty) and a further nine Jehovah’s Witnesses have been charged under Article 282.2, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (taking part in the activity of a religious organisation closed for carrying out extremist activity, punishable by up to six years’ deprivation of liberty).

In addition, we know of two prosecutions in Kabardino-Balkaria for offences under Article 282, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (inciting hatred and enmity, and also violating the dignity of a group of people, on grounds of religion, punishable by up to five years’ deprivation of liberty); and of three further cases in which, in addition to charges under Article 282.2, Section 1, the suspects have been charged with offences under Article 282.3, Section 1 (financing extremist activity, punishable by up to eight years’ deprivation of liberty).

We note that those who have spoken out against this campaign of persecution of a religious faith are the delegation of the European Union to the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Russian and foreign human rights defenders.

Memorial Human Rights Centre categorically adds its voice to this criticism. We demand that all charges be dropped against Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being prosecuted for their religious faith.

The ruling by the Russian Supreme Court of 20 April 2017, designating the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation and banning their activities in the country, cites not a single instance of Jehovah’s Witnesses committing violations of public order or acts of aggression or violence, nor any evidence that their peaceful religious activity threatens the security of the Russian Federation and necessitates measures of suppression. The sole activity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses declared by the Court to be extremist was the dissemination of religious literature previously banned by Russian courts. However, these bans were imposed exclusively on the grounds that, allegedly, Jehovah’s Witnesses incited religious discord and disparaged other religions on the basis of their conviction of the rightness of their own faith - something which is evidently a natural characteristic of any religion (one of the expert assessments on which the ban was based criticised the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their belief that they are chosen by God and for their belief in the Apocalypse).

At present we know of 39 Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being prosecuted (see the list, which is regularly updated, on our website here). Of these, at least 23 have been remanded in custody and at least six are under house arrest. In addition, we know of at least ten Jehovah’s Witnesses who are on bail. Our list is most likely incomplete and further names will be added.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers all those Jehovah’s Witnesses who are on remand or under house arrest to be political prisoners and calls for their immediate release. We also demand that criminal charges against those Jehovah’s Witnesses on bail pending trial be dropped.

Memorial Human Rights Centre will continue to monitor the unlawful prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups that have been unjustifiably banned.

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

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 72: Protests against pension reform, a lawyer arrested, assaulted and convicted, and Oleg Sentsov's hunger strike continues

posted 16 Sep 2018, 04:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Sep 2018, 04:30 ]

16 September 2018


OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here





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Photo: An arrest at the protest against pension reform in St. Petersburg; (c) Egor Tsvetkov / Bumaga


On 9th September protests against pension reform were held, supported by the politician Aleksei Navalny. This is what happened:

More than 1195 people were arrested in 38 cities. In St Petersburg more than 623 people were arrested, in Ekaterinburg more than 184, in Krasnodar 60 people, and in Moscow a total of 48 people. At least 60 minors were arrested.

In a number of cities, arrests were accompanied by the violence. OVD-Info is aware of at least 15 incidents of this kind, including at least seven in St. Petersburg. At least 14 journalists were arrested at the protests, and four allege that they were struck by police batons.

Two people in Moscow have been charged with using violence against a public official. They have been remanded in custody until November.

You can read about the prosecutions of these individuals here. For example, in St. Petersburg a woman with disabilities was jailed for 13 days; in Ekaterinburg a woman with epilepsy was jailed for 15 days.

More information about the protests, prophylactic arrests and assaults can be read here.


After the protests, people were arrested in Murmansk, Penza, Novosibirsk, Naberezhnye Chelny and Nizhny Novgorod.


We are delighted to report that Aleksandr Shpakov, convicted in the Case of 26 March has been released. The length of his sentence was recalculated in line with new legislation. Shpakov was arrested at a protest that followed publication on the internet of the film “Don’t Call Him Dimon” when prime minister Dmitry Medvedev did not respond to accusations of corruption.  Shpakov had tried to prevent the arrest of Aleksei Navalny and was sentenced to 18 months in a prison colony. He was charged with using violence against a police officer.

The New Greatness prosecution is continuing. Two of the suspects have gone on hunger strike, while six, including Anna Pavlikova and Mariya Dubovik, have had their terms of pre-trial detention extended (this applies both to those on remand and those under house arrest).

The Network prosecution is also continuing. Three of the suspects in the case have been charged. One of those charged, Dmitry Pchelintsev, was shown two charge sheets: on one charge Pchelintsev would face a term of between 5 and 10 years, on another between 15 and 20 years. The investigator said that if Pchelintsev pleaded guilty, he would be charged for the lesser offence. Dmitry maintains his innocence. Another suspect, Viktor Filinkov, has applied to the European Court of Rights, alleging he has been tortured. In Penza the pre-trial arrest of seven suspects in the case has been extended. The investigation is due to be finalized on 17 September, when the case will go to court.

At least 17 people in Moscow, one in Kazan and one in St. Petersburg, have been jailed since Monday for taking part in a “Continuous Protest.” From 10 September in Moscow a “Continuous Protest” against the current regime in Russia has been underway. Participants are demanding cancellation of the pension reform, resignation of the government and the president, dismantling of the government’s media oversight agency Roskomnadzor and “lustration of state officials who are not capable of governing the country.”

Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike for 123 days now. You can write him a letter here.

Texts

“They put handcuffs on both hands, dragged me out of the car and threw me face down on the tarmac.” In Krasnodar on 9 September the lawyer Mikhail Benyash, who provided legal assistance to protesters, was arrested. He was stopped in the street by people in civilian clothes and pushed into a car. He was subsequently assaulted at a police station. A court sentenced him to 14 days in jail and 40 hours of correctional labour. He may yet face criminal charges.

At a rally against the increase in pensionable age, more than 600 people were arrested in St. Petersburg - a record number of detainees in this city over the last two years. Some of the protesters were taken to police stations not in police vans but in ordinary city buses. The heroes of this story were transported in one of these ordinary buses and have told how the police treated them to a sightseeing tour around the suburbs of St. Petersburg.


“Victim complex”. In Ekaterinburg more than 180 people were arrested at a rally against the increase in the pensionable age. According to activists, this is the largest number of arrests at a rally in the history of the city. For comparison, at the rally on 5 May one person was detained. We spoke with local human rights defenders and found out what they think.

Something absurd for the weekend: the leader of the Moscow Zionist organisation Shakhar is under investigation for incitement of hatred. He says that an attempt was made to plant anti-Semitic (!) literature on him, but it turned out to be perfectly legal. The organisation itself is in negotiations with United Russia Young Guard and some of its members have published on the far right website Sputnik and Pogrom. An OVD-Info correspondent has investigated this extraordinary story and the reasons why law enforcement officials are interested in Shakhar.

“The police officer said that he knows that I am from the press, that he watches our videos and reports. Including our livestream on the Internet that I did from a police van when I was being taken to a police station after my arrest.” Aleksandr Zubov, a journalist from Omsk, said that his press card was torn up at the 9 September protest, and then he was held for many hours at a police station.

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