Rights Groups in Russia

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

Association of Independent Public Observers releases new statement on Network case

posted 2 Mar 2020, 03:47 by Translation Service   [ updated 2 Mar 2020, 04:00 ]

17 February 2020

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group 

Members of various regional Public Oversight Commissions (POCs) have signed a statement issued by the Association of Independent Observers demanding an unbiased investigation into the use of torture in the Network [Set’] case, which should result in the identification and punishment of any officials found guilty of torture and, as a result, a review of the Network case itself. The list of signatures on the statement has been continuing to grow.

The appeal was signed by well-known human rights activists — members of the association who are or were members of POCs that monitor conditions in places of detention. Among them are Valery Borshchev (co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Andrei Babushkin, Lev Ponomarev (member of the MHG), Sergei Sorokin (member of the MHG), Zoya Svetova, Dmitry Makarov (co-chair of the MHG), Yana Teplitskaya, Evgeny Enikeev, Ernest Mezak, Igor Kalyapin, Lyudmila Alpern, Veronika Katkova, Larisa Zakharova, Alexei Sokolov, Natalia Dzyadko and others.

‘On the 10th of February, the verdict was announced in the case of the so-called terrorist group, Network (banned on the territory of the Russian Federation). A number of young people, aged from 23 to 31, were sentenced to between 6 and 18 years in prison. We have been following this case since its beginning and we have enough evidence to believe that many of the defendants were tortured, and that evidence was largely based on the evidence given under torture,’ the statement reads. Members of the St. Petersburg POC, Yana Teplitskaya and Ekaterina Kosarevskaya, visiting the defendants in this case, conducted an independent investigation in the very first days and established that torture by electric current and electrical burns had taken place. They interviewed torture victims and drew up an independent investigation under the Federal Law No. 76: ‘On Public Oversight to Ensure Human Rights in Places of Forced Detention.’ Members of the POC immediately spoke out about the torture case at a press conference in Moscow.

‘Both the case and torture itself were repeatedly reported to the President, including by members of the presidential Human Rights Council during meetings with him in 2018 and 2019. Both the President and the Russian public are informed about the absolutely absurd accusations, and also that a fully-fledged investigation into the torture is not being carried out, because they are the responsibility of the Federal Security Service (FSB),’ wrote the authors of the statement.

The statement mentions that human rights activists Lev Ponomarev, Valery Borshchev and Svetlana Gannushkina had earlier appealed to the President of the Russian Federation, saying that they were ready to present facts and show evidence that the people involved in the Network case were tortured with electric shocks and incriminated themselves under torture, and that the arguments and position of the defence were completely ignored by the court.

‘We, the members of the Association of Independent Prison and Police Observers, who, during inspections of places of enforced detention, were repeatedly presented with evidence of violence and torture of prisoners done to obtain the necessary evidence for the investigative authorities, call for the abolition of the illegal sentence, and for the investigation of torture and prosecution of the torturers as required by Russian law. The flagrant cruelty and injustice of the sentences are outrageous. We demand an objective investigation into torture in the Network case, which should end with the identification and punishment of all officials found guilty of torture and, as a result, a review of the Network case itself,’ the statement read.

Translated by Alice Lee

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 142: The UN, Meduza, Network, and a hammer for a blogger

posted 2 Mar 2020, 03:38 by Translation Service   [ updated 2 Mar 2020, 03:44 ]

29 February 2020

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.

Hi! This week, we explain our position on Meduza’s controversial publication and we look at how the UN can influence freedom of assembly.

Chechen activist attacked in Poland. Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, famous for his criticism of Razman Kadyrov, has been attacked in Poland. On 26th February, the attacker entered the flat where Abdurakhmanov was sleeping and hit him over the head with a hammer. However, the blogger woke up and managed to fend off and disarm his attacker.

Why does this matter? Tumso Abdurakhmanov is seeking asylum in Poland because he believes that he would be in danger if he returned to Chechnya. He has published a video on his YouTube channel, showing a conversation with a man claiming to be the Chairman of the republic, Magomed Daudov. The Chechen authorities take a zero-tolerance approach to criticism directed at them. People in the republic are frequently detained for their activities on social media or for memes depicting Kadyrov.

Novaya Zemlya for the ACF. Moscow’s Meshchanskii District Court has dismissed a lawsuit put forward by Ruslan Shaveddinov, who works for the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), who disputed the legality of his draft into the army. Moreover, the courts in Arkhangelsk refused to consider a second lawsuit filed by Shaveddinov after he was barred from using mobile communications. The courts accepted information from the Ministry of Defence, who claimed that nobody had stopped the conscript from using his mobile phone. And that means that there is no need to specifically authorise it either.

Why does this matter? ACF manager Ruslan Shaveddinov was detained in his apartment on 23rd December, after the authorities made a hole in his door to gain entry. First, Shaveddinov was taken for interrogation by the Investigative Committee, and then he was immediately sent on military service to the far northern archipelago of Novaya Zemlya.

Activist forbidden from seeing a dentist – again. The interrogator from the Ministry of the Interior in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has once again forbidden LGBT activist Iulia Tsvetkova from seeing a dentist. The police officer says that she will not let Tsvetkova see a doctor until her mother comes in for interrogation. This is not the first time that the activist, who is under house arrest, has been barred from visiting the dentist.

Why does this matter? Criminal charges are being pressed against Iulia Tsvetkova under the law on distribution of pornography, because of her writings in the body-positive publication “The Vagina Monologues.” The case was initiated after a complaint from well-known homophobe Timur Bulatov, who frequently denounces LGBT-activists. The dentist in question believes that Tsvetkova is in urgent need of surgery for a malocclusion, without which she could suffer irritation to her nerves leading to disability.

For the second time, the courts have fined a designer who was not present at protests. Designer Konstantin Konovalov, whose leg was broken by police officers on 27th July 2019, has once again been fined for his protest activities. An earlier decision on Konovalov’s fine from the same Savelovsky Court had already been overturned by the Moscow City Court. Afterwards, the case was returned to the court for fresh consideration. Evidently, this did not help achieve justice.

Why does this matter? Konovalov was arrested several hours before the start of the protest on 27th July, while jogging along Tverskaya Street. The designer’s leg was broken during the arrest, and he ended up in hospital. However, the courts maintain that Konovalov somehow managed to take part in the protest even though he was in the police station, and then the hospital, with a broken leg. At the same time, the authorities do not seem too concerned with investigating the circumstances under which the designer was injured.


Meduza and Network. Media platform Meduza has published an article outlining the possible involvement of several defendants in the Penza branch of the Network case in the killing of two people and in drug trafficking. The piece has been met with a wave of debate and criticism. OVD-Info has been publishing detailed coverage of the Network case since shortly after its beginning. Our editors felt it important that we clarify our position.

Russia and the UN. Russia has objected to comments from the UN on the practice of freedom of assembly. The Russian authorities are concerned that the UN is obliging states to take steps to protect “individuals who are experiencing discrimination”, and to combat obstruction to the work of journalists and human rights activists. OVD-Info explains what the UN wants and what the Russian authorities want from the UN. Additionally, OVD-Info member Katia Golenkova clarifies how opinions put forward by the UN might influence freedom of assembly.

Hyde Parks. There is just one Hyde Park in Moscow, located in the middle of the Sokolniki woods. The authorities closed the second one, which was in Gorky Park and was open to passers-by, without any explanation or any media coverage in 2015. Read our piece about how it all came about.

Azat Miftakhov. Mathematician and anarchist Azat Miftakhov has been charged with hooliganism at the offices of the United Russia party. Miftakhov is currently on remand awaiting the start of his trial. Aleksandr Litoi explains the details of the case against him.


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.

Illustration by Vlad Milushkin for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Team 29: 🔎 What search engines are hiding

posted 1 Mar 2020, 07:07 by Translation Service   [ updated 1 Mar 2020, 07:09 ]

29 February 2020

Hi, Tanya Torocheshnikova here.

The end of February is probably the most difficult time of year. It so happens that at least two unhappy dates fall in the last week alone of this short month.

One of those, 23 February, marks the start of the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush. In 1944, half a million people: men, women, children, and the elderly were loaded onto freight trains and taken away to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – forever. They were only allowed to take with them what they could carry. The whole operation, code named Lentil (‘Chechevitsa’), took two weeks and it became one of the biggest ethnic deportations in the history of the USSR. We have reconstructed events from 76 years ago, and here we tell the full story of the Chechen-Ingush deportations.

Many of those who were deported are no longer with us, but their children live on and keep their memory alive. For that article, I spoke to Oyub Titiev, who was actually born in Kyrgyzstan. “I always remember 23 February being the hardest day in the lives of our people,” says Oyub. “There may have been worse days, but it’s difficult to talk about such heavy losses from everyone being deported.” There Oyub stops speaking, and I can see that it’s just not going to be possible to keep asking questions.

Speaking of memory, towards the end of the week, Yandex removed several links from search results relating to Aleksandr Udodov, the former brother-in-law of the new Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin. Not long beforehand, Aleksei Navalny had published an investigation into Udodov’s involvement in tax fraud and the movement of money out of the country. So why would search engines be hiding the links? What about the right of access to information? Was such a thing ever possible? We have answered all of these questions in our memo on how the right to be forgotten works. It seems like it’s about time for a recap on the subject.

And here’s the most important thing about memory. Five years ago, yet another day was added to the list of unhappy dates to fall in late winter. On 27 February 2015, on Moskvoretsky Bridge, Boris Nemtsov was murdered. It seems impossible that this would ever be forgotten – even if all the search engines in the world suddenly removed links to it from their search results.

If you’re in Moscow and are reading this mailing on Saturday, maybe we’ll see you on the remembrance march. If not on Saturday, then I hope that you’re back home and all’s well. And that perhaps Spring has even come where you are.

With love and hope,

Tanya & Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 141: A police officer confesses, Jehovah’s Witnesses are beaten, and the Moscow Case continues

posted 23 Feb 2020, 05:17 by Translation Service   [ updated 23 Feb 2020, 05:22 ]

22 February 2020

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.

Hi! Jehovah’s Witnesses are being harassed and beaten, the Moscow Case continues to unfold, and a police officer has made a confession in the Golunov case.

The Moscow Case. One of the last defendants to be sentenced in the Moscow Case, Andrey Barshai, has been given a three-year suspended sentence. The 21-year-old student was accused of pushing a member of the Russian National Guard in the back. And yet the Federation Council has claimed that the police who beat protesters over the summer have been punished. Nothing concrete is known about this, however.

Why does this matter? The Moscow case has turned into the Russian capital’s largest prosecution against protesters since the case of Bolotnaya Square. 11 people have been sent to prison, five have received suspended sentences, four have been fined, two are on wanted lists and one is barred from leaving the city. Charges have been dropped against eight others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are continuing to face harassment. Prison wardens in Orenburg beat five Jehovah’s Witnesses inmates. At the same time, in Birobidzhan eight new criminal cases were launched against suspected members of the local religious community. And in Chita, a believer who says he was tortured has been released.

Why does this matter? Ever since Jehovah’s Witnesses were declared an extremist organisation, members of this branch of Christianity have been facing harassment simply for practising their religion.

The Golunov case. One of the police officers who was detained in the case against journalist Ivan Golunov has confessed to planting drugs on him. The police officer claims that he was ordered to do so by his boss, Igor Liakhovets. Liakhovets, for his part, maintains his innocence and says that he was on holiday at the time anyway.

Why does this matter? Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was detained in June 2019. The police had planted drugs on him and charged him with planning to sell them, but the case caused a public outcry which pressured the investigation into taking a step back. Golunov was released, and the case against him dropped. Those protests marked the beginning of a wave of public actions in 2019.


Cases of terrorism. OVD-Info often writes about those accused of membership in terrorist communities and organisations. These cases – such as the Networks and Hizb ut-Tahrir cases – culminate in lengthy prison sentences for people who have committed no acts of violence. Mikhail Shubin explains the particulars of cases like these.

Siberia Without Torture. Sviatoslav Khromenkov, director of the fund Siberia Without Torture, had his home searched in connection with a fraud case. Khromenkov himself was abroad at the time and has decided not to return to Russia for the time being. Aleksandr Litoi spoke to him about the prosecution he is facing.

14 hours of unfreedom. On 15th February, lone picketers in St Petersburg protesting constitutional changes were arrested. The Municipal Deputy of the nearby town of Pushkin, Sergey Lazarev, spent over 14 hours in police vans and at the police station after he tried to explain to the police that lone pickets do not need authorisation from the authorities. OVD-Info has recorded Lazarev’s story.

New Greatness. The prosecution is soon due to request sentences for defendants in the New Greatness case. OVD-Info has published the arguments put forward by the Maksim Pashkov, who is the lawyer for defendant Maria Dubovik, about why the extremist organisation New Greatness could not have formally existed.


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.

Illustration by Viktoriya Kim for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Yulia Tsvetkova is a political prisoner

posted 17 Feb 2020, 07:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Feb 2020, 07:24 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»
11 February 2020

Yulia Tsvetkova is being prosecuted because of her public stance and feminist views.

Feminist and artist Yulia Svetkova, who lives in Komsomolsk-na-Amur, has been charged with unlawful preparation and trafficking of pornographic materials on the Internet (Article 242, Section 3, Part b, of the Russian Criminal Code, punishable by up to six years’ deprivation of liberty). The charges are based on her role as administrator of a feminist body-positive online group, ‘Vagina Monologues,’ which has published abstract depictions of female sexual organs and items similar to those either drawn by Tsvetova or posted earlier on the Internet with the aim of removing the taboo surrounding female physiology. Since 23 November 2019 Tsvetkova has been under house arrest.

The criminal investigation was initiated following a complaint by homophobic activist Timur Bulatov, who has a criminal record. Bulatov, according to statements he has made, is conducting a ‘moral jihad’ against LGBT people, and those who treat them with tolerance, by making complaints to law enforcement agencies.

  • We consider Yulia Tsvetkova is being prosecuted under the criminal law because of her public activities and her active feminist stance. She promotes her views by wholly lawful means as an activist and contemporary artist. At the same time, her prosecution is taking place in the context of a government campaign for the ‘protection of traditional values,’ used, among other things, to secure the regime’s hold on political power in Russia. The criminal prosecution of Tsvetkova was preceded by a campaign of persecution against the artist and her mother and an extended examination (from February until November 2019) by law enforcement authorities of all her online and offline projects. Taken together, these bear witness to the artificially contrived nature of the offence with which she has been charged and the evident fact that the prosecution is politically motivated.
  • Materials in connection with which Tsvetkova has been charged cannot be said to be pornographic. They do not promote sexual desire, are not naturalistic and have a specific artistic and intellectual value. In both our view and that of experts who have viewed the works, these materials are no more pornographic than the depiction of sexual organs in a school anatomy textbook. The materials cannot be automatically classified as ‘pornographic’ because of the depiction of vaginas. In the world of art and design of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries there are numerous examples of such depictions that have important cultural value.
  • The criminal prosecution of Tsvetova is all the more selective, given the large amount of significantly more candid and naturalistic materials on the Internet that have not been subject to criminal investigations. The very suggestion that someone could perceive the drawings posted by Tsvetkova as pornography is absurd in the context of contemporary reality. Analogously, the crude interference of law enforcement agencies in creative matters and attempts to criminalise contemporary art, placing the function of art experts on police investigators, is absurdly anachronistic.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in line with international guidelines defining the term, recognises Yulia Tsvetkova as a political prisoner. We urge that the absurd charges concerning alleged distribution of pornography be dropped and that the activist be immediately released from house arrest.

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.
  • The best source of news about the case and the solidarity campaign, including the timetable for pickets in support of Tsvetkova, is the Telegram channel ‘Я/Мы Юлия Цветкова’ [I/We Yulia Tsvetkova].
  • You can sign the petition in support of Yulia Tsvetkova.
  • You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com.
  • The address for letters is: 111399, Москва, Мартеновская ул., д. 3, а/я 6 [111399, Moscow, Martenovskaya Street, House 3, PO Box 6] (letters will be passed on to Yulia Tsvetkova’s mother).
Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Verdict in the Network case - where the impossible is the norm

posted 17 Feb 2020, 07:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Feb 2020, 07:18 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»11 February 2020 

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Seven people have been convicted by a military court in Penza in a case involving fabrication of evidence and torture. What does this mean, and how did we come to this?

On 10 February 2020 the verdict in the so-called ‘Network’ case was announced: seven young men, supporters of anarchist and anti-fascist ideas, were sentenced to terms in prison colonies ranging from six to 18 years for creating, or participating in, a terrorist group, and also for possessing weapons and ammunition.

The charges, and subsequently the verdict, were built on confessions the court should have rejected, not least because they were obtained by torture. Some of the defendants in the case were tortured after they had been detained, but before that detention had been formally recorded, during a time when they temporarily ‘disappeared’ from the purview of the law. The torture then continued until the defendants had given testimony that alligned with the charges fabricated previously. The Network group, evidently, was a paper creation, based on the materials of an ‘operational report’ about leftwing activists. Subsequently, individuals who knew each other but little or not at all were forced to admit to participation in a single ‘terrorist organisation.’

‘Participants’ in this organisation were not charged with the commission of any actions, nor with having developed specific plans, but only with indefinite intentions, with having ‘planned’ something criminal ‘in a place and at a time that have not been established, in circumstances that have not been established by the investigation, jointly with persons who have not been identified, guided by the ideology of anarchism,’ It is claimed that Network had a charter and held congresses. The investigators gave the title ‘congresses’ to various open meetings, including ordinary social gatherings at which one or other of those convicted was present or accidentally met with another (after all, most of the members of Network did not even know each other). As experts have shown, the ‘charter’ of the group of anarchists (a thing which would in itself be amusing!) appeared on a computer after it had been seized, when the owner was already held on remand, and was then edited by unidentified persons. No fingerprints or other biological samples of the defendants were found anywhere on a meagre store of arms, including on the weapons and ammunition, that allegedly were discovered. Investigators, for their part, did not even try to establish the circumstances in which the weapons had been acquired. Pressure was applied not only to the defendants, but also to witnesses, many of whom complained about this and rejected testimony they had at first given. This weak ‘evidential base’ was strengthened by the testimony of ‘secret witnesses.’

During the trial it became evident that the Network organisation, that has been designated as ‘terrorist’ and banned in Russia, did not in fact exist.

Memorial Human Rights Centre has already recognised the defendants in the Network case as political prisoners (see the materials about the Penza and St.Petersburg prosecutions on our website).

The verdict in the Network case is already being called ‘unprecedented.’ However, there have been more than enough examples of similar sentences over the last twenty years.

From the very beginning of the ‘counter-terrorist operation’ in the North Caucasus, Russian federal military, law enforcement and security services made wide use of abductions, unlawful detentions and cruel torture, both against those suspected of ‘terrorism’ and against those who clearly had no connection to such crimes.

In recent years this practice has been extended to other Russian regions and to other categories of cases, and has been far from limited to cases related to ‘Islamic extremism.’

For example, Ukrainians Nikolai Karpiuk and Stanislav Klykh, under horrific torture during the investigation, admitted to all the charges fabricated against them of having allegedly participated in events of the First Chechen War. The judicial motivation for the conviction was a nonsense. But this did not hinder the sentencing of the two in 2016 to 20 and 22 years in prison colonies, respectively.

Fifteen people, who were sentenced in 2016 to jail terms of up to 13 years for allegedly preparing a terrorist attack on the Kirghizia cinema in Moscow, had in common only the fact that they were builders, most of whom did not know each other, but who had at various times rented a sleeping place in the same hostel. They confessed under torture to taking part in a ‘terrorist cell.’

Memorial has recognised those convicted in these cases as political prisoners. The list can be continued.


The use of torture and fabricated evidence in the Network case were known from the very beginning, in the winter of 2018. The St. Petersburg Public Oversight Commission was able to record marks of torture to which the suspects had testified. However, neither wide publicity nor appeals to the law enforcement agencies prevented the fabrication of the charges or the convictions. The case is worthy of the Stalin era in terms of its absurdity and lack of evidence for the charges, the methods of obtaining confessions and the severity of the sentences. However, it was developed and brought to a conclusion by investigators, prosecutors and the court not in secret, not in some deep dungeon, but, essentially, in full view of the public, in the spotlight.

Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Team 29: ⭐ Lawyers fighting depression

posted 16 Feb 2020, 06:08 by Translation Service   [ updated 16 Feb 2020, 06:09 ]

15 February 2020

Hi, my name is Lera Vetoshkina

I’m a lawyer with Team 29, and this is my first message to you.

At the start of this week, I found myself thinking that I was afraid to go on social media. It’s like you’re constantly expecting news of the latest unfair conviction, unjustified detention, or misconduct by security officials.

Then, I heard the phrase, ‘Facebook depression’ and I knew that this is just what I (and probably many others) have, when we endlessly comment and talk on social media about how bad everything is. I’m fed up of it and have decided to find something nice instead.

It all began on Monday, when they delivered the verdict in the Penza trial of the ‘Set’’ [Network] case. Much has already been said about this: the torture, the disproportionate prison terms, the lack of sufficient evidence, and, worst of all, this could affect every one of us. Everyone who’s involved in a public interest campaign and is socially active in some way. And that’s really frightening.

It’s also a kind of legal hellscape – you cannot base a guilty verdict on confessions obtained under torture, unsupported by anything else. But that’s what the judge managed to do.

I hope that none of you will have need of this, but here you go – we have written about what to do when they come for you. It’s always best to be prepared for this.

Incidentally, in cases like that, security officials love to use information obtained from the defendants’ social media. Some apps will give up your details on request. We tell you how this happens and who does it in our new reference guide.

Towards the end of the week, though, something good happened – just what I was after. On Wednesday, our senior lawyer, Maks Olenichev, and I returned from St. Petersburg City Court with good news. The court had ordered the Ministry of the Interior to give our client Ilya Gendelev sight of the archived case files of his grandfather. This was also made possible due to the legal position of the Russian Supreme Court in another of the Team’s cases. Earlier, the legal authority in question had not granted access to personal cases relating to unrehabilitated victims of Soviet terror, and it hadn’t been possible to challenge such refusal of consent in the courts. Now, things have been done differently, and this is a step – though small – towards openness. Very soon the Gendelev family will finally be able to find out about their relative, which means that our work will not have been in vain.

I think that the best way to get over depression of any kind is good news. And I hope that next week will bring us all much more news like that.

Chin up!

Lera and Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 140: How to conduct a single-person picket, the Network case, and lengthy prison sentences

posted 16 Feb 2020, 05:43 by Translation Service   [ updated 16 Feb 2020, 05:51 ]

15 February 2020

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.

Hi! Defendants in the Network case in Penza have received double-digit sentences, Ingush human rights project, Ambulance, is closing down, and more members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been imprisoned.

The Network case. On 10th February, the courts in Perm handed down prison sentences to defendants in the Network case, ranging from six to 18 years. Activists travelled from a range of different cities to attend the hearing. The next day, the police visited the flat where some of them had been staying. While this was going on, picketers speaking out in support of the defendants were being arrested in Moscow.

Why does this matter? Network is a criminal case against a group of anarchists and antifascists from Penza and St. Petersburg, who have been charged with organising and participating in a terrorist organisation, and with trafficking drugs. The defendants in the case have said, on several occasions, that they have been tortured. They have received enormously long prison sentences, which has sparked a discussion in society about whether the punishments were just and whether violence from law enforcement officers is permissible.

Hizb ut-Tahrir. The courts in Ekaterinburg have sentenced Eduard Nizamov, who lives in Kazan, to 23 years imprisonment for organising a branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir. During the investigation, Nizamov claimed that he was tortured and put under pressure.

Why does this matter? Hizb ut-Tahrir is an Islamic party that was declared a terrorist organisation in 2003. Members of the party are not committing any acts of violence, but have been receiving prison sentences in excess of 20 years for allegedly organising acts of terror and attempting to overthrow the authorities.

Twitter and Facebook. In Moscow, a justice of the peace has fined foreign companies Twitter and Facebook four million roubles each for refusing to transfer the data of Russian users onto a Russian server.

Why does this matter? In September 2015, a law was passed making it a legal requirement for data relating to Russian users to be stored in Russia. This law is the government’s attempt to monitor civic activism on social media, as it already does with the Russian site Vkontakte. Twitter and Facebook had already been fined three thousand roubles for breaching that law back in April 2019. In December, the fines were increased from a few thousand to a few million roubles.

Ingushetia. The human rights project Ambulance, which offered support to those implicated in the so-called Ingush Bolotnaya Square case, has announced its closure. Lately, its members had been facing growing interest from the security agencies, and on 28th January one of its volunteers was searched.

Why does this matter? The case – dubbed the Ingush Bolotnaya Square – is the largest criminal prosecution of oppositionist activists launched by the Ingush authorities following the March 2019 protests. At least 41 people are facing criminal charges, of whom 33 are in custody. Ambulance’s volunteers had been collecting and broadcasting information to those in pre-trial detention.


How to hold a single-person picket. OVD-Info’s lawyers have put together a manual on how to hold a single-person picket safely and legally in Russia.

Plan Fortress and the lawyer. On 9th February, a group of protesters wearing stage makeup were detained. The activists had been trying to confuse the facial recognition software that had been recently installed in the city’s CCTV systems. OVD-Info lawyer Dmitrii Zakhvatov went to visit the detainees, but the police activated Russia’s security emergency protocol, Plan Fortress, in order to stop him from gaining access to them. Dimitry managed to get into the police station but was then thrown out. Later, he managed to get inside once again. We have published Dmitrii’s story.

Enemy of the state. The Federal Penitentiary Service does not want to release Ilia Romanov, a 52-year old anarchist who is seriously unwell and paralysed, and who has spent 20 years in prison. He is at risk of death from complications, as the prison hospital is not providing him with the treatment he needs. Our colleagues at Novaya gazeta tell Romanov’s story.

The Other Russia. In 2019, the security agencies increased pressure on activists from The Other Russia movement. OVD-Info member Matvei Pukhov writes about the searches, threats and administrative arrests that supporters of the party have been subjected to.

The police and illegal rubbish collection. On 8th February, the police attempted to ban a traditional protest calling for separate recycling collections on Vernadskii Avenue in Moscow. The police threatened protesters with misdemeanour charges and fines. The local Deputy from the Yabloka party, Elena Filina, explains what happened to OVD-Info.


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.

Illustration by Anna Semykina

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Eleven residents of Crimea prosecuted for involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir are political prisoners

posted 10 Feb 2020, 11:00 by Translation Service   [ updated 10 Feb 2020, 11:01 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»31 January 2020

On trial under terrorism articles of the Russian Criminal Code, they have not been charged with terrorism

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre believes the prosecution of 11 Crimean Tatars is politically motivated. They are being prosecuted for the non-violent realisation of their rights to freedom of conscience, belief, association and peaceful assembly. In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Marlen Asanov, Server Zekiryaev, Ernes Ametov, Timur Ibragimov, Seiran Saliev, Memet Belyalov, Server Mustafaev, Edem Smailov, Rustem Emiruseinov, Eskender Abdulganiev and Arsen Abkhairov are political prisoners. Memorial demands their immediate release.

The ‘Bakhchisarai case’

Asanov, Zekiryaev, Ametov, Ibragimov, Saliev, Belyalov, Mustafaev and Smailov, all residents of the Bakhchisarai district in Crimea, were detained by the FSB in the autumn of 2017 and the spring of 2018. Since the autumn of 2019, they have been on trial at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. The defendants are held on remand in the city’s pre-trial facility.

The Federal Security Agency [FSB] asserts that, not later than 2016, Asanov, Belyalov and Ibragimov organised in Bakhkchisarai activities of the international Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, designated as a terrorist organisation in Russia (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). Zekiryaev, Ametov, Saliev, Mustafaev and Smailov joined the organisation (Article 205.5, Section 2). All these Muslims have been charged with ‘conducting religious and political training sessions’ and ‘disseminating the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir.’

In addition, they have been charged with preparing to seize power (Article 30, Section 1; Article 278). The charge is based on the programme of Hizb ut-Tahrir that foresees the unification of territories with a Muslim population in a single state - the Caliphate. Since there are also regions of that kind in Russia, in the view of the investigators, the defendants, in seeking to spread the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘were acting to create the conditions for the violent seizure of power and the violent alteration of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation.’

The ‘Krasnogvardeiskoe case’

Abdulganiev, Abkhairov and Emiruseinov were arrested in February 2019. The trial is beginning at the Southern District Military Court, as a result of which they have been moved from a remand centre in Simferopol to one in Rostov.

According to the investigators, Emiruseinov created a cell of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea’s Krasnogvardeiskoe district no later than 2017 (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code), while Abdulganiev and Abkhairov became participants in the cell (Article 205.5, Section 2). The FSB asserts that the defendants studied Islam, the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir and conducted agitation among their fellow villagers.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: the prosecution of Muslims in both cases is politically motivated

The sole offence of the Crimea residents proved to be participation in a banned civil society organisation. There is no evidence at all to indicate that they committed or planned to commit crimes of violence, still less any actions that could be called terrorist as a matter of common sense — they have not been charged with either threatening to commit or preparing acts of terrorism.

Memorial considers the 2003 designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation to be unlawful. The text of the decision of the Supreme Court, that in one swoop banned the activities of a large group of Islamic organisations, devoted one paragraph of three sentences to Hizb ut-Tahrir, sentences that cited no evidence of terrorist activities.

In the years since the decision of the Supreme Court designating Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organisation, hundreds of Muslims have been criminally prosecuted for participation in the organisation. At the present time about 300 people are behind bars. After the annexation of Crimea, Muslims living in the peninsula also became victims of persecution. At least 60 Crimean Muslims at present have been deprived of their liberty.

The ‘solving’ of the many cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir, using procedures that have been simplified as much as possible, reduces to a minimum the effort required to achieve the ‘best results’. These cases enable the security services to raise their performance results many times over (and therefore demonstrate their own usefulness), manipulating the notion of the terrorist threat while substituting an imitation of the fight against terrorism for the real thing. At the same time, it is precisely this anti-terrorist rationale that is used to justify the adoption of laws restricting civil rights. In this way, the imitation of a struggle against terrorism strengthens the powers of the authorities.

The injustice and unlawfulness of the prosecution of Muslims for participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir is aggravated in Crimea by the fact that under Ukrainian law the organisation functioned legally. According to documents gathered by investigators in the case, many of those charged had lawfully become members of Hizb ut-Tahrir before the Russian occupation of Crimea. Furthermore, criminal prosecution on charges of participation in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea, and the methods used, in our view violate the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and also the norms of ordinary humanitarian law. Most of the defendants are participants in Crimean Solidarity, an association providing assistance to political prisoners and their families. On a daily basis, Crimean Solidarity reports on human rights violations by Russian law enforcement officers in Crimea and speaks out in criticism of the authorities. We agree with Crimean Solidarity that the prosecution of its activists is intended as a blow against the organisation’s work and to silence critics of the authorities.

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 these cases can be read on our website: about the Bakhchisarai case here; and about the Krasnogvardeiskoe case here.

Reprinted by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Eduard Nizamov, claimed to be head of the Russian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, is a political prisoner

posted 10 Feb 2020, 10:48 by Translation Service   [ updated 10 Feb 2020, 11:03 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»28 January 2020

If convicted, Nizamov faces a possible life sentence

Eduard Nizamov has been charged with organising the activities of a terrorist group (Article 205.5, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code), financing terrorism (Article 205.1, Section 1) and preparing the violent seizure of power and alteration of the constitutional order (Article 30, Section 1; Article 278). According to law enforcement agencies, in 2013-18 he headed the Russian branch of the international religious and political organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, which has been designated a terrorist organisation in Russia. Investigators in the case claim Nizamov organised the work of the movement and its financing, intending to build a theocratic Islamic state, or Caliphate. The charges are not supported by any real evidence. The prosecution is, in the first instance, a result of the formal terrorist status of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Nizamov a political prisoner, according to international guidelines defining the term, and demands his immediate release.

A businessman and father of six children, Eduard Nizamov was detained on 10 October 2018 in Kazan. In November 2019, his trial opened at the Central District Military Court in Ekaterinburg.

Memorial Human Rights Centre has studied the charges laid against Nizamov and concluded that his prosecution is politically motivated.

Memorial considers the designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation unfounded and unlawful. The 2003 ruling of the Supreme Court at one sweep banned the activities of a large group of Islamic organisations, with one paragraph of three sentences devoted to Hizb ut-Tahrir that contained no evidence of the organisation’s terrorist activities.

It was precisely the designation of the organisation as terrorist that permitted any of its activities to be found to be ‘terrorist.’ Meetings, tea drinking sessions and prayers all became ‘terrorist activity.’ The purchase of literature and collection of donations to help those with the same beliefs who were arrested were counted as the financing of terrorism. Activities in the streets and on the internet became preparation for the violent seizure of power and alteration of the constitutional order.

The charge that Nizamov engaged in preparing to seize power arose out of a formal combination of the ideological premises of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the documentation of road races, tea drinking sessions and theological debates. According to investigators in the case, if the ideal form of state for some Muslims is a Caliphate, then any of their activities are a threat to the Russian state. And therefore Nizamov, declared to be the leader of the movement, is the main conspirator and rebel.
In the years since Hizb ut-Tahrir was designated a terrorist organisation, hundreds of Muslims have been criminally prosecuted on charges related to participation in the organisation. With each year, courts sentence defendants in these cases to ever longer terms in prison colonies (up to 24 years in a strict regime prison colony). At the present time, at least 298 people are behind bars on these charges.

You can read more about the case of Nizamov and the position taken by Memorial on our website.

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 support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Reprinted by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

1-10 of 443