OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 109: Police are against skateboards, but torture is fine

posted 1 Jul 2019, 03:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Jul 2019, 08:50 ]
29 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! On Monday we will be publishing some research showing how the article on misdemeanours committed during protests has become a key tool in the persecution of protesters. Meanwhile, our analysts, Ekaterina Borovikova, Daniil Beilinson and Natalia Smirnova, have detailed their methodology in studying this phenomenon and outlined their conclusions.

The latest episode of OVD-Info’s joint vlog with the ROMB project is also out – watch it to learn more about the main incidents of political repression in June.

Now for the news. The head of a Circassian charity called Khabze, Martin Kochesoko, has denied charges of possessing drugs. He has recounted in detail the circumstances of his arrest.

Why do I need to know this? The highly public case against Ivan Golunov demonstrated how widespread the practice of fabricating cases against “inconvenient” people is. Kochesoko’s colleagues and friends are convinced that the case against him is connected to his public activity. Three weeks before his arrest, Kochesoko had held a roundtable in Nalchik on the problems of federalism in Russia. The next day a civil servant, whose name has not been released, approached those close to the activist and advised them to limit their public activity. At first Kochesoko admitted his guilt, but now claims that security agents coerced him into confessing. The Supreme Court of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic removed him from remand facilities and instead placed him under house arrest.

A member of an organisation which considers the breakup of the USSR to have been illegal claims to have been tortured in the psychiatric hospital attached to the Butyrka prison. Andrey Zlokazov is under suspicion of extremist activities. The courts ordered him to undergo compulsory medical treatment. Zlokazov claims to have been tortured into signing statements. His medical report details the injuries he sustained: nine broken ribs, a broken sternum, five broken vertebrae and a collapsed right lung with a build-up of air in the chest cavity, because of injuries to his chest. 

·  Why does this matter? It is not uncommon for defendants in cases considered by human rights activists to be political to report being tortured. Azat Miftakhov, a defendant in the case of United Russia’s broken window, defendants in the Networks case, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut and many others have all reported being tortured. The authorities, on the whole, take no action when such allegations are made. That was also the case with Zlokazov. He wrote to the Public Prosecutor, the Investigative Committee, and even the High Commissioners for Human Rights in the Moscow and Sverdlovsk Regions. He did not receive a single reply. Even while he was in the remand facility, officers refused to receive his complaints.

A case in Khakassia regarding disrespect of the authorities has been droppedLocal resident Vyacheslav Shoev had been facing charges because of a Facebook post where he made negative comments about Valentin Vonovalov, head of the Khakassian Republic. His Facebook page had placed been under surveillance by Russia’s counter-terrorism unit after the head of the region’s administrative office supposedly “sent a signal” to the police.

·  Why does this matter? In March, Vladimir Putin signed the law on disrespect of the authorities. First offences against this law carry fines of 30,000 to 100,000 roubles. At present, we know of at least 11 such cases. The case in Khakassia is the first to have been dropped.

Pro-Ukrainian activist Volodymyr Baluch has gone on dry hunger strike. He was not permitted to meet with the Ukrainian consul.

·  Why do I need to know this? Balukh was sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison on two charges: illegal possession of ammunition and assaulting a prison guard. Balukh’s lawyer and other human rights activist believe the case was brought because of his pro-Ukrainian position, and Memorial has recognised him as a political prisoner. Balukh’s health is sharply deteriorating in prison and he is frequently placed in punitive solitary confinement.

Features

Police against skateboards. On International Skateboarding Day, a few people were arrested in Moscow after skating on a square. Aleksandr Litov spoke to some of the participants: the scale of the arrests was small, but skaters fear that it could be repeated.

Not safe enough. A week ago, the Constitutional Court banned local authorities from refusing to authorise protests on the grounds that the organisers had not sufficiently described the security measures they would put in place. Aleksey Polikhovich, together with Aleksandr Peredruk (a lawyer from the Protest Apology project) and Denis Shedovoy (a lawyer from Memorial) explain whether this will change anything in the way that protests are authorised in Russia. 

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. 

Illustration by Alina Kugusheva for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson


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