Rights Groups in Russia

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OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 108: Director of environmental NGO faces five criminal charges over foreign agent law; five prosecutions brought under administrative law for disrespect of the authorities on the Internet

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

24 June 2019

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 have updated our legal advice telegram bot. Now, as well as providing guidance for detainees, it also helps people prepare for trial. It’s a convenient cheat-sheet for both activists and lawyers. Install it and share it with your friends!

We have also released a cartoon explaining in detail what to do if you find yourself facing trial for taking part in a rally. OVD-Info’s lawyer, Denis Shedov, also gave a livestream on what to do if you were detained at the march in support of Ivan Golunov, and how to prepare for your trial.

And now for the week’s news.

The constitutional court has banned local authorities from refusing to authorise rallies on the grounds of insufficient security measures. Now, responses cannot be sent to event organisers stating that they did not demonstrate how they would avoid disorder

·  Why does this matter? Local authorities have already tried and tested a whole range of different reasons to reject protest applications. Sometimes their fantasies even border on the absurd. That was the case with Valery Teterin, whose complaint is what led to this decision from the constitutional court. The local authorities in Irkutsk did not even bother to look at his application – they referred to the fact that Teterin did not demonstrate what security and paramedic measures would be in place during the protest. The constitutional court responded that responsibility for those measures lies, first and foremost, with the executive authorities.

Oyub Titiev, head of the Chechen branch of Memorial, has been released. But he has decided to suspend his activities representing the human rights centre in the Republic of Chechnya.

·  Why do I need to know this? Oyub Titiev spent a year and a half in custody for possession of drugs. He claims that a packet of marijuana was planted on him during his detention. Human rights activists maintain that the case was fabricated and politically motivated. Now, as a result of the case against Titiev, Memorial has halted its activity in the reason for the safety of its employees. Here you can watch Titiev’s first interview following his release.

·  Igor Rudnikiv, director-in-chief of Novye Kolesa, a newspaper based in Kaliningrad, has been released. The courts reclassified the charges against him and counted his stay in pre-trial detention – over a year-and-a-half – as his punishment.

·  Why do I need to know this? Rudnikov was charged with extorting Viktor Ledenev, the head of Kaliningrad Investigative Committee. Rudnikov himself considers the case to have been fabricated, and Memorial has declared him a political prisoner. You can read more about the case here.

On Sunday, six people were arrested at protests in Moscow and St Petersburg against political repression and police corruption – three in each city. Police in St Petersburg took against a sign reading “Pudding – lor”, while, in Moscow they didn’t like the slogans “this rubbish is worse than sh**” and “Putin is a thief” [“Putin – vor” in Russian], as well as an anarchistic flag. Protests took place in a total of 13 cities.

·  Why do I need to know this? Following the rallies in support of Ivan Golunov, the public has started paying attention to other criminal cases and demanding the release of political prisoners, as well as the relaxation or repeal of article 228 of the criminal code.

No less than five cases have been initiated against Alexandra Koroleva, director of the NGO 'Ecodefence!'. All of them relate to the article in the criminal code on deliberate disregard of court orders. This was because of five fines issued to Ecodefence! for breaking the foreign agent law: the organisation refuses on principle to register as a foreign agent and to report to the Ministry of Justice.

·  Why do I need to know this? According to the law, NGOs who receive international funding must register as foreign agents. That said, the law does not extend to NGOs created by state companies. In 2013, Ecodefence! managed to stop the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in the Kaliningrad Region, and by July 2014 the organisation was deemed to be a foreign agent. Collectively, the fines amounted to more than two million roubles, which the organisation cannot afford, as its accounts have been frozen since last year.

Russia’s counter-terrorism unit, Centre E, has opened five administrative cases on disrespecting the authorities for publications about the protests in Shiyes. The unit has been surveying the online open group Pomorye – ne pomoika (Pomorye is not a cesspool) and opening administrative cases for critical comments.

·  Why does this matter? In March, Vladimir Putin signed the law on disrespect of the authorities. According to calculations by lawyer Pavel Chikov, a total of eight cases were opened under this law on 19th June. A resident in the Arkhangelsk Region was fined 30,000 roubles for “negative comments about people appointed to be ‘judges’.” Another local resident faced administrative charges for saying “they’ve surveyed everything”.


Protests, criminal cases, beatings and fines. Residents of the Arkhangelsk Region are speaking out against the construction of a landfill site, which will contain waste transported from Moscow. Construction has been suspended for a period of public hearings and expert witness statements. Mikhail Shubin describes the persecution that protesters have been facing.

“According to the enquiries, I supposedly recovered while in special detention facilities.” In late march, blogger Mikhail Alferov was detained for 12 days on administrative charges of evading community service. The reason for said “evasion” was serious health problems. During Alferov’s detention, a criminal case was opened against him. He tells OVD-Info how the prison guards and doctors from the state hospital treated him and explains how the criminal case is linked to the conditions of his detention.

 “These are brand new torture techniques”. Psychologist Alexandr Argachov was one of those detained at the march on 12th June. He refused to give police officers his name, and they took revenge by disturbing his sleep and not withholding food from him. Argachov spent a total of two nights in the Sokol police station. He tells OVD-Info what happened after he was arrested.


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.

OMON and police at the Shiyes settlement. Photo by Iuliya Shalgalieva 'North-West. MBKh-Media

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Golos: Main news of the week 17th - 23rd June 2019

posted 24 Jun 2019, 13:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Jun 2019, 13:17 ]

23 June 2019

Everything you need to know about last week’s elections

Roman Udot update  

Golos member Roman Udot will be required to undergo psychiatric examinations. Seemingly, this is an attempt on behalf of the authorities to delay proceedings by isolating experts during the upcoming September elections.

Roman is facing absurd charges and remains under house arrest.  Members of the Central Election Commission’s scientific expertise council have come out in support of him. Do not be silent, use the following hashtags to spread the word about this disgraceful matter:

#СвободуРомануУдоту  #FreeUdot

The situation in St.Petersburg

“Secret” elections In St. Petersburg: We know that there will be around 33 temporary provincial polling stations there, but the details about this are unclear. Golos, alongside the “Petersburg Observers”, have prepared proposals to eliminate potential abuses.

there are, after all, already signs of bias - the Public Chamber in St. Petersburg, apparently forgetting its place, officially called upon Alexander Beglov to announce his candidacy. This is why we maintain it is necessary to reinstate the right to send electoral observers to the polling stations.

“Violations Map”: a reboot to the single voting day 2019

If you are pressured or forced to vote for a particular candidate, or you see campaign advertisements in an inappropriate place- you know where to turn.

We have launched the "Violations Map" ahead of the September 8th elections and eagerly await your feedback. We transfer all the information gathered to the electoral commissions and law enforcement agencies in order to eliminate violations, and to ensure that those responsible are punished.


Who will collect the signatures for nominations to the Moscow City Duma? - Golos

The Moscow election commission’s openness standards. How the Moscow Election Committee failed to grasp the facts about this law- Golos

Vasily Weissenberg: Unelected in Moscow: Why are we forced to think in the “Friend or Foe” paradigm? - Golos

Stanislav Shevchenko: Three Stories from Turochak - Golos

Our bloggers

Vasily Weissenberg explains how (and why) HSE’s Vice Rector, Valery Kasamara, sued oppositionist Ilya Yashin, and how the district electoral commission eventually sided with the latter. Weissenberg, who attended the meeting, explains what these candidates are accusing one another of.

What is happening in Serpukhov, where three Communist Party candidates were removed prior to the elections? Inna Karezina examines the extent to which this was an error on behalf of the commission. Golos will be observing the election, and are closely monitoring how the campaign is unfolding.

No cameras will be installed at polling stations in Tatarstan. Mikhail Tikhonov has gathered together all the pros and cons, and concluded that this is a particularly bad idea..

You can donate to support Golos’ work here.

Translated by James Lofthouse 

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 107: Becoming an administrative slogan

posted 19 Jun 2019, 12:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jun 2019, 13:05 ]

17 June 2019

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 had a complicated week this week, with plenty of news – both good and bad. Let’s start with the good news.

The case against journalist Ivan Golunov has been dropped and he has been released! Events regarding his case unfolded rapidly. Golunov, a journalist and researcher, was charged with attempting to sell drugs, and last week he was placed under house arrest. But soon after, on Tuesday, he was released and the case was dropped on for having insufficient evidence.

·  Why does this matter? The public’s reaction against the case, which was marred by violations of due procedure, and the authorities’ response to public pressure, simply reinforce our beloved mantra, that nobody should be left to face the system alone. We have not only the right, but also the responsibility to join forces and work towards fair court procedures.

We released a survey, jointly with “Paper” [a St Petersburg publication] on what Ivan Golunov’s case means to Russian society and to you as an individual. The survey is anonymous and takes no more than three minutes to complete. Please fill it in – even if you have already done so via our social media (something went wrong at our end).

At least 530 people were detained in Moscow at a march against fabricated court cases on 12th June. As always, we covered the events with a live feed and published a list of the detainees’ names.

·  Why does this matter? Although the protest was peaceful, police used force when making arrests, and back in police stations law enforcement officers committed gross misconduct. A seventeen-year-old photographer, who was arrested and beaten at the march, sustained bruising to his ribs, cheekbones and hip, cuts to his face and neck, and even a blunt trauma to his stomach. Some police stations refused to allow defence lawyers in, and some police officer filled out their arrest notes wrongly. One of them, for instance, wrote that the detainee was wearing a white slogan t-shirt reading “I/We are Ivan Golunov”, although he was actually dressed in black. Another wrote that the protester had been shouting “an anti-government slogan, ‘Ivan Golunov’”. That’s no joke.

Click here to read OVD-Info member Mikhail Shubin’s summary of the march; and here Alla Frolova, who coordinates our legal services, explains the various violations committed by law enforcement officers.

The court has granted parole to the head of the Chechen branch of Memorial, Oyub Titiev. He is due for release on 20th July.

·  Why do I need to know this? Oyub Titiev’s case is an example of how public attention can influence a situation. The Chechen human rights activist was sentenced in March to four years in prison for possession of drugs. He maintains that a packet of marijuana was planted on him. Human rights group Memorial saw Titiev as a political prisoner, Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience, and a range of international institutions – including the European Parliament and the OSCE – voiced their support for him. Titiev received the both Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Moscow Helsinki Group Award once he was already behind bars. Here we have written about the various illegalities in the proceedings against him.

Sadly, not all the news is good:

Relatives of the mathematician Azat Miftakhov are facing pressure from police to provide evidence against him. Miftakhov’s sister, who is currently in tenth grade at secondary school, was threatened with setbacks to her studies, arrest, a criminal record and a summons to be interrogated if she does not withdraw her support from her brother. The mathematician’s mother was advised to “deal with [her] daughter” and to stop interacting with “civic activists”. His stepfather was threatened with problems at work.

·  Why do I need to know this? Azat Miftakhov, currently pursuing a PhD in applied mathematics at Moscow State University, was arrested on charges of hooliganism after unidentified individuals broke a window in the offices of the United Russia party and threw in a smoke bomb. He was detained on 1st February and over the course of the 11 days that followed his period of detainment was repeatedly extended under a host of different pretexts. Miftakhov reported having experienced beatings and been tortured with a screwdriver in police custody to his lawyer.

We have written in detail about certain aspects of Miftakhov’s arrest and published a timeline of how the case of United Russia’s broken window unfolded.

The homes of Crimean Taters have been subject to mass searches, after which eight people in different cities were arrested. All are accused of “organising terrorist activities” or of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

·  Why does this matter? Ever since Crimea joined Russia, Crimean Tatar activists have been facing pressure. Many of them have been accused of being members of the religious movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia. The organisation’s members are facing significant prison sentences simply because they held meetings in apartments, read religious texts and recruited new members. Meanwhile, a number of experts believe that Hizb ut-Tahrir was wrongly deemed a terrorist organisation, as its members in Russia have never incited violence or planned acts of terror.

Evgeny Kurakin, a journalist from the Moscow region, will spend two months in pre-trial detention. He was arrested on 7th June in the prosecution office, where he had come to apply for protection for a park in Reutov, which was at risk of being felled.

·  Why do I need to know this? In 2012, a criminal case was opened against Kurakin for money-laundering, after he won a case in the court of arbitration against the Centrstroy construction group. Centrstroy, in association with the authorities, initiated Kurakin’s prosecution. He was charged with money-laundering and arrested; the activist spent 16 months remanded in custody and was released on bail. In February 2016 he was brutally beaten by unidentified people armed with brass knuckles and suffered broken cheekbones and upper jaw. In January 2017, the courts returned the case to the prosecutor’s office.


The police are off form: Following protests against the construction of a church on a square in Ekaterinburg, Stanislav Melnichenko is under suspicion of insulting the authorities because he showed someone his middle finger and called them an “asshole”. Aleksey Polikhovich gives more detail on this case.

The Total Fortress Plan: during large public protests, the police often announce the implementation of the so-called “Fortress” plan, under which nobody is allowed into police stations. That happened after the 12th June march, too. That meant that many of those under arrest in police stations had no access to their defence lawyers. Aleksandr Litoy has studied this practice and tries to work out the legality of it.

Pornography, drugs, terrorism: The case against Ivan Golunov is, unfortunately, not the only instance in Russia of independent journalists facing pressure from the authorities and being subjected to criminal cases. Anastasia Medvedava writes about some of the other, similar cases of the past year.

Defended by society as a whole: Yana Sakhipova and Mikhail Shubin remember the prominent criminal cases where broad publicity and a groundswell of public support for defendants led to the release of innocent parties or changed the situation for the better.


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 Liza Andreeva for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Golos: Weekly News Digest 10 - 16 June 2019

posted 19 Jun 2019, 12:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jun 2019, 12:46 ]

16 June 2019

Everything you need to know about last week’s elections

Roman Udot remains under house arrest

The Khimki court has extended the arrest of Golos member Roman Udot until July 16th. In a Kafkaesque manner, the judge seemed unfazed by the absurdity of the charges and the investigation’s claims.

We fear that Roman is being isolated in the run up to the September elections in order to impede Golos. Therefore, it is particularly important that his story is not forgotten.

Spread the word on social media, share Roman’s posts, do not be silent. Together, our voice is stronger.

Digital polling stations

The Central Election Commission demonstrated how digital polling stations will work: People will be able to vote in regional elections even if they are in the capital. By September, 40 of these stations will have arrived in Moscow.

How will this all work? You can read Vasily Weissenberg’s report here.


Voters in St. Petersburg under pressure when collecting signatures for Beglov - Golos

Sberbank makes candidates’ lives simpler - Golos

“United Russia” has not put forward any candidates for the Moscow City Duma but will remain in parliament - Meduza

I’m on Sobyanin’s team.” The director of the Higher School of Economics, Valery Kasamara, discusses the turbulence at the university and her nomination to the Moscow City Duma - Novaya Gazeta

Governor Sergei Furgal proposes a return of direct elections for district heads in the Khabarovsk region- Guberniya Online

Our bloggers

Why will there be no video surveillance in the September elections in Tatarstan? Perhaps this is due to the fact that several incriminating revelations were made with the help of surveillance cameras in previous years. This is the conclusion the Tatarstan Observers Association arrived at, having studied records from 18 different sites. You can see Azat Gabdulvaleeva’s findings here.

You can donate to support Golos’ work here.

Translated by James Lofthouse

Team 29: Three Russias and a Green Card

posted 17 Jun 2019, 11:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jun 2019, 11:53 ]

14 June 2019

Tanya Torocheshnikova here.  

I happened to be out of Russia all this week and could only watch events from afar.  At one point, it even crossed my mind that I would be returning to a different country, but it all turned out to be more complicated than that.  Thinking about it, it’s like Russia isn’t one country now, but several.

What’s happening?

  • In one Russia, one of our very best journalists, Ivan Golunov, has drugs planted on him and faces a prison term of 10 years or more, which then prompts an unprecedented response – everyone on Facebook, it seems, has added ‘Free Ivan Golunov’ to their profile pic, and stood in line on pickets day and night.  In the end, first the court releases Golunov into house arrest (!), and then it closes the case entirely (!!!)
  • In another Russia, people march in protest against lawlessness by the state and the detention of Golunov, and the police arrests over 500 people (among them are around 40 of the very same journalists and, for a moment there, they can’t actually arrest them)
  • In a third Russia, on the day after the march, the FSB refuses to release the elderly academic Viktor Kudryavtsev from Lefortovo.  They found junk mail about the American green card in his mail box (you probably remember having received something like that too), and the court decided that he was planning to go overseas, which meant that he couldn’t be trusted.  Kudryavtsev spent a year in the remand prison and celebrated his 75th birthday there.  He’s in really poor health – it’s amazing that he’s still hanging in there.  Just read about his son, who’s also an academic, discussing his father’s case, and how his father doesn’t want to die in prison.

What is there to listen to?

Listen to yourself, be true to yourself, and everyone will then stand a good chance of ending up in one Russia together: us, the people arrested on the 12 June march, and Viktor Kudryavtsev.

Love from Tanya & T29

Write to us at info@team29.org

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Golos: Weekly News Digest 3 - 9 June 2019

posted 17 Jun 2019, 11:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jun 2019, 11:31 ]

9 June 2019

Everything you need to know about last week’s elections

What is happening at the ‘Vyshka’?

On the eve of the election, one of the most respected universities in the country was embroiled in a series of scandals: there was the Vice-Rector Valeria Kasamara’s advertisement on the direction of the Board, the closing of the student talk-show just before the interview with Liubov Sobol, and the dismissal of a number of reputable teachers, due to reorganisation.We must draw public attention to what is going on in the university –  Golos has appealed to students, teachers, and the leadership of the ‘Vyshka’.

Roman Udot has not been released from house arrest

The Moscow Regional Court dismissed the defence’s appeal against the decision on house arrest of Roman Udot, a member of the board of Golos, on completely absurd charges. He will remain without contact with the outside world until 16 June. Tatiana Yurasova reported from the courtroom on what happened in the Moscow Regional Court, what the attendees had talked about, and how the prosecution behaved.


New data in the “Party Purses”


Data from the parties annual reports for 2018 has gone online on our website. This is an excellent source of information for your own journalistic investigations about the real state of affairs in your regions. Study and share your findings with us.



Vladimir Grachev has resigned from the position of Chairman and left the electoral committee of the Ryazan region – ‘Vid sboku’.


“Chairmen don’t simply leave like that”: this was being discussed at the CEC. Who will join Ryazan region’s electoral commission and the Forum of public observers from the Sakhalin electoral commission? – ‘Golos’.


All future candidates were designated in St Petersburg – ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’.


Our Bloggers 

Why is the commission’s concluding session sitting dying out as an event, and is it time to put the special opinions of its members in the Red Book for threatened species? The reflections of Sergei Piskunov, who studied the notes of dozens of participants, but did not come across any peculiarities.


The voiceless voice: and another example of an election whose results can be judged on the real support for ‘United Russia’, reports  Stanislav Shevchenko.


We also continue to publish the stories of independent public observers, who watched the European Parliament election in different countries:


Translated by Mercedes Malcomson

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Statement on the case of Ivan Golunov

posted 11 Jun 2019, 13:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Jun 2019, 13:22 ]

10 June 2018

We demand all charges against the journalist be dropped

The arrest of Ivan Golunov, a journalist who works for Meduza, was accompanied by numerous procedural violations of a very serious nature. A list of just some of these violations, that gives sufficient grounds to show the criminal case has been fabricated, includes: the refusal over many hours to inform his family and allow him access to a lawyer; the dubious circumstances of the examination of his person and the search of his apartment; the publication by the Moscow Police Department of counterfeit photographs of the ‘domestic drugs laboratory’; the beating to which he was subjected; the failure to provide timely medical care; and the excessive length of detention in violation of permitted norms.

It is hard to believe that a busy and successful investigative journalist could at the same time be engaged in drug trafficking.

We know how easily criminal charges related to drugs’ possession can be fabricated. Examples can be seen in the cases of political prisoners Oyub Titiev, Andrei Kolomiyets, Mikhail Savostin, Zhalaudi Geriev and Ruslan Kutaev.

These practices are widespread and enable the continuing impunity of those guilty of procedural violations and fabrication of criminal cases.

We declare our solidarity with Ivan Golunov and demand that the charges against him be investigated in an impartial and transparent manner.

Those guilty of the violation of Ivan Golunov’s rights and, even more, of the fabrication of evidence of an especially serious crime, must be identified and punished. It is therefore vital that the campaign of support and solidarity, so rapidly launched around the world, continues.

Photo © Evgeny Feldman, Meduza

View a video of the arrest of Ivan Golunov

Support our work

Our address: Moscow, Karetnyi ryad, 5/10

Telephone: (495) 225 31 18

Fax: (495) 699 11 65

Website: www.memohrc.org

E-mail: memohrc@memohrc.org

Team 29: On the case of journalist Ivan Golunov - arrested, framed and beaten

posted 10 Jun 2019, 10:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Jun 2019, 10:29 ]

7 June 2019

Hi there,

This is Katya Arenina, and I’m really angry and upset at the same time.  We get an incredible amount of spam hitting our inbox all the time.  Just today, a message came in headed, ‘Your very worst nightmare’.  In it, there was some nonsense about a hacked account and an instruction to ‘transfer bitcoins’.  No, guys, the bad nightmare isn’t your moronic emails (seriously, does anyone still believe this stuff?). The worst nightmare of all is what’s happening right now to the Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov.

If anyone isn’t aware (though I doubt it), Golunov was arrested yesterday afternoon in Moscow as he was heading to a meeting with a source.  On searching him, they found (they didn’t find it, of course, they planted it) a packet of what appeared to be mephedrone on him.  They searched him without a lawyer present, but with witnesses who were well known to Criminal Investigation Department officials.  They didn’t allow Golunov to call anyone until 4am and they beat him up.

‘Baza’ cites Golunov’s testimony:

They put me under psychological pressure, too, calling me a “queer”.  When I refused to sign their report, they wouldn’t let me call a lawyer, then the SP [poss. special psychologist?] beat me up. (…) …When it was time for the inspection, and I asked to call a lawyer once again, I reached for a chair and stood up.  I tried to hold onto it, but they began to pull at my legs.  Then we fell down and I hit the left side of my head on the step. (…) …I lay on the floor at the bottom of the stairs and they dragged me.  Maksim pushed down on my chest with his foot.  The other official called Maksim punched me on the cheek with his fist.

Naturally, these words invoke real hatred.  The Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Moscow has posted pictures of some drug lab on its site that they allegedly found at Golunov’s home, but his friends say that 8 of the 9 photos were just taken somewhere else.  Meanwhile, no charge appears to have been brought, yet he is suspected of the attempted sale of narcotics in a large quantity.

It’s not yet clear how we can help, just raise awareness.  If you’re in Moscow, you could go down to the picket on Petrovka, as this will help a little.  Also, believe that Golunov is innocent.  Those who are now saying no smoke without fire are just really lucky people who haven’t yet had anything like that happen to them.  Golunov is one of the very best Russian investigative journalists, and his work was clearly bothering someone, so this is what they came up with as a way out.  Read more about the case on Meduza, where they have put together some links to Golunov’s best articles.  That’s it for the news today.

Katya, T29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Golos board member Roman Udot is a political prisoner

posted 9 Jun 2019, 10:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Jun 2019, 10:29 ]

30 May 2019 

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre 

Roman Udot, a board member of the independent election monitor Golos, has been charged with committing an offence under Article 119 (Section 1) of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Threat of murder or serious harm to health,’ punishable by up to two years’ deprivation of liberty) on account of a conflict with NTV staff pursuing him at Sheremetyevo airport on 20 March 2018. Udot was arrested on 20 May 2019 and on 23 May 2019 was placed under house arrest after he attended questioning of his own volition, having returned to Russia from a long business trip abroad.

According to investigators, ‘on 20 March 2018 at approximately 19:00 at the Aeroexpress train terminal at Sheremetevo airport, citizen Roman Nikolaevich Udot, […] in the course of an altercation with NTV journalists Aleksandra Andreevna Miroshnichenko and Eduard Nikolaevich Zhuralvev that arose because of their poor personal relations related to the journalists’ professional activities, in the presence of bystanders began to threaten them with murder and physical harm, using phrases such as ‘I’ll kill you, I’ll certainly kill you,’ threats that A. A. Miroshnichenko and E.N. Zhuravlev took to be real since they had grounds to fear the threat would be carried out.’

Memorial has reviewed the materials of the criminal case and has concluded that Roman Udot was unlawfully deprived of his liberty and is wholly innocent of the charges.

The article of the Russian Criminal Code under which Roman Udot has been charged is not classified as a serious offence, and on such a charge a person with no previous conviction cannot be sentenced to deprivation of liberty. In accordance with Articles 107, 108 of the Russian Criminal Code, pre-trial measures of restraint in the form of house arrest can be imposed on persons charged or suspected of such acts only in exceptional circumstances, namely, where the identity of the person has not been established, the person has no permanent residence in Russia, or the person has violated previous forms of pre-trial restraint or has hidden from the investigatory bodies, police investigators or the courts. However, the charges against Udot, who of his own volition went to the police for questioning on his return to Russia and requested that the criminal case opened against him for allegedly hiding from the investigative authorities be reopened, are absurd and contradict all known facts. The imposition of house arrest is therefore a crude violation of the Russian Criminal Code and has no basis or justification.

Furthermore, there is no evidence of an offence in Udot’s actions. It is evident that the NTV journalists did not “consider [Udot’s emotional exclamations] real since they had grounds to fear the threat would be carried out,’ since they were pronounced in a place that was well protected and where there were many people. Moreover, there were two NTV correspondents and, evidently, they were not intimidated by Udot’s threats since they continued to pursue him. Udot did not use physical force, did not threaten the ‘victims’ with any weapon or objects used as a weapon, and his biography and public position do not allow him to be seriously considered someone capable of committing a crime of that nature.

A situation of that kind, in which journalists from a propaganda media organisation harass and hound civil society activists with impunity, is itself totally impermissible. Roman Udot and his ex-wife have been subject for several years to harassment by NTV ‘journalists’ that was either instigated or, at the least, sanctioned by the security services. The incident itself on 20 March 2018 happened at Sheremetyevo airport before Udot was to fly out, itself evidence that information about his movements and planned travel arrangements was illegally passed to NTV journalists. According to Meduza, the NTV journalist and ‘victim,’ Miroshnichenko, has been involved in a number of instances of harassment of activists and failure to observe minimal professional standards.

In our view, the political motivation for the harassment of Roman Udot is the authorities’ desire, on the eve of this year’s regional and local elections, to hinder the work of one of the largest election observation organisations in Russia, an organisation in which Udot has been an active participant. Golos has for many years been subjected to ceaseless intimidation, including criminal prosecutions of members of the movement, the designation of the organisation as a ‘foreign agent,’ and the publication of numerous ‘news’ items smearing the movement and its supporters.

On the basis of the points listed above, we demand the immediate release of Roman Udot from house arrest and the impartial consideration of the charges brought against him by a court of law.

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 on our website.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: The prosecution of five residents of Bashkortostan, convicted of involvement in Nurjular, an Islamic association, has a political motive

posted 9 Jun 2019, 10:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Jun 2019, 10:26 ]

29 May 2019

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

In March 2017 Azamat Abutalipov, Aivar Khabibullin, Airat Ibragimov, Timur Munasypov and Shamil Khusnitdinov were sentenced at Ufa’s October district court to suspended sentences under Article 282.2 of the Russian Federation (organisation of the activity of an extremist organisation).

In June of that year the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan quashed the suspended sentences. Two of the defendants were given prison sentences under Article 282.2 (Section 1): Abutalipov was given four years; Khabibullin was given two years and three months. The three others were given suspended sentences under Article 282. 2 (Section 2): Ibragimov and Munasypov were given a two-year suspended sentence; Khusnitdinov was given a suspended sentence of 22 months. All those convicted were also banned from educational work.

According to the prosecution and court, all five were involved in activities of the Nurjular organisation (to be exact, the ‘Jamaat Hizmet movement’ that is allegedly a branch of Nurjular associated with the Gülen movement) on the territory of Bashkortostan, namely:

- Regularly conducted meetings with young people in order to recruit them to Nurjular and popularise the extremist branch of Islam;

- Rented apartments in Ufa ‘where under the cover of holding Islamic classes they held sessions to attract people to Nurjular.

- Stored and disseminated the propaganda literature of Nurjular and Hizmet.

None of the defendants pleaded guilty. All asserted they actually did study religious literature and the works of Said Nursi, but never took part in the activities of the Nurjular ‘organisation’.

We consider that no such organisation exists, and the attribution of the status of a ‘structured organisation’ to the community of followers of Nursi is a mystification by the Russian security services.

Nurjular is the generalised name adopted by followers of the Turkish Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960), whose collected works are the Risale-i Nur. Nursi’s adherents concentrate on religious and moral issues and do not involve themselves in politics. Russian courts assert the opposite, but provide no real evidence.

Nonetheless, regular group study of the books of Said Nursi in Russia has, over the past 15 years, systematically resulted in criminal prosecutions (see, for example, https://memohrc.org/ru/defendants/kim-evgeniy-lvovich or https://memohrc.org/ru/special-projects/mahachkalinskoe-delo-posledovateley-saida-nursi). Such prosecutions are usually accompanied by a propaganda campaign intended to present the defendants as enemies who, apart from other things, are secretly advancing Turkish political influence.

In 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation designated the Nurjular association as extremist on the grounds that the ‘activity of structural subdivisions of the organisation on the territory of Russia threatens inter-ethnic and inter-faith stability in the country and the territorial integrity of the state.’

The judicial rulings banning Nursi’s works state that the books have an ‘irrational influence’ on personalities, furthering conflict between Muslims and non-believers: ‘their content is intended to…spread exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of their attitude towards religion.’ We consider these assertions are unsound and politically motivated.

On 28 August 2018 the European Court of Human Rights published a judgment in the case of Ibragim Ibragimov and others v. Russia which found that the banning of the works of Said Nursi on grounds of extremism violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of expression.

Hizmet, an organisation that the Ufa court called the ‘Gülen branch of Nurjular,’ is a Turkish and international movement founded by Fethullah Gülen and not related to Nurjular either organisationally or in terms of its ideas. Supporters of Hizmet emphasise the importance of science and education in the life of society and condemn religious radicalism and terrorism. Russian courts without any justification have put several of the Gülen’s movement’s books on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The movement is not itself banned in Russia.

In the judgment handed down in June 2017 in Ufa there is no evidence that those convicted were involved in acts of violence or in any other activity that would have violated human or civic rights. We consider that the criminal prosecution of five Muslims from Bashkortostan is directly related to their religious beliefs and violates their right to freedom of conscience.

The law enforcement agencies have, in effect, invented an organisation in order to imitate activity to protect public security, and in doing so have sought to manipulate the Islamophobia that exists in society.

In addition, such behaviour by law enforcement agencies fits into a trend evident over many years by which anti-extremism legislation is transformed into a means to suppress freedom of conscience and association, extending the powers of the security services and, in that way, strengthening the powers of those in authority.

Memorial considers Abutalipov and Khabibullin to be political prisoners; and Ibragimov, Munasypov and Khusnitdinov to be victims of unlawful politically motivated prosecution.

We demand the immediate end of their criminal prosecutions and the release of those deprived of their liberty.

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 on our website.

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