OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 15: This week, Russia’s anti-extremism legislation took another four casualties

posted 11 Aug 2017, 05:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Aug 2017, 11:00 ]
11 August 2017

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday it sends out a mailing with the latest information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here. These English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are republished here by kind permission with due acknowledgement.

This week, the trial in the case of the “Army of the People’s Will” ended with the defendants given jail terms of up to four years.

The four defendants - Yury Mukhin, ex-chief editor of the newspaper Duel, and his associates RBK journalist Aleksandr Sokolov, Valery Parfenov and Kirill Barabash - had been charged with continuing the activities of the banned Army of the People’s Will under cover of a group advocating the holding of a referendum “For Accountable Government.”

Parfenov and Barabash were both sentenced to four years in a general regime prison colony. Mukhin was given a four-year suspended sentence, while RBK journalist Sokolov was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in a prison colony.

The Army of the People’s Will was banned for a publishing a leaflet advocating the holding of a referendum and an amendment to the Russian Constitution to provide for the public accountability of government officials. Three of the defendants had been held in pre-trial detention for almost two years.

Pavel Nikulin, co-chair of the Union of Journalists and the creator of the magazine moloko+ [milk+] has spoken about the prosecution of the Army of the People’s Will and his belief that Sokolov should be released immediately. We have also published Sokolov’s final address to the court.

Andrei Kosykh, charged in the “Case of 26 March,” has been sentenced to four years in a general regime prison colony.

Kosykh was found guilty of using force against a police officer (Article 318, Sections 1 & 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) at a demonstration on 26 March in Moscow. According to the prosecution, Kosykh, as he emerged from Tverskaya metro station, struck police officer Sinegubov with his fist on the Jetta helmet the officer was wearing. Kosykh also struck warrant officer Gavrilov “in the neck and the lower jaw on the right hand side with his foot.”

In his final address to the court, Kosykh said that it was “hard for him to imagine that he could cause significant physical injury to a riot police officer who was wearing full protective gear.”

Many colleagues, former teachers, fellow students and neighbours had given positive character references for Andrei Kosykh. He has organized events for orphans and donated 80 books to the local library. His mother has been a member of the district council and a member of the United Russia party. She said that her son travelled around by hitchhiking and was a vegetarian.

Moscow City Court ruled that the deportation of journalist Ali Feruz should be halted. Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights had banned Russia from deporting Feruz. Until the European Court of Human Rights issues its final judgment in his case, Feruz will be located in a Temporary Detention Centre for Foreign Citizens. According to his lawyer, the case may last for more than a year.

Eight years ago the journalist Ali Feruz left Uzbekistan after that country’s security services had sought to persuade him to collaborate against his will. Feruz was subjected to torture before he managed to escape.

Ali Feruz’s request for temporary asylum in Russia was refused. His appeal against this refusal has yet to be heard in court, and therefore the refusal has yet to enter into force. For this reason, Feruz may lawfully remain on Russian territory.

You can follow how the trial progressed on Twitter via the hashtag #суднадАли.

Sergei Udaltsov has been released from prison. The leader of Left Front had been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for organizing riots that allegedly took place on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in 2012. On 10 August, speaking at a press conference, Sergei Udaltsov talked about his time in prison, the Bolotnaya Square prosecutions, Donbass, and his attitude towards Navalny and Putin.

This week judges and police demonstrated a special degree of ingenuity even in minor cases. In Crimea an elderly man with Parkinson’s disease was sentenced to ten days in prison for allegedly refusing to follow the instructions of police officers during a single-person picket.

The Buddhist symbol similar to a Nazi swastika was cause for a trial in Omsk. The court fined an artist for a photograph of a tattoo with the religious symbol. He was charged with “public demonstration of a Nazi symbol.”

In Solovki, police officers decided to investigate whether a rally to mark the Memorial Day for Victims of Political Repressions had had official permission. The event has been held on the islands for the last 29 years, but it is the first time the authorities decided to conduct such an inquiry. Surprisingly, the investigation found there had been no violations.

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This week we are announcing a small innovation. We’re now running online reports from court hearings via our Twitter account [in Russian]. Each trial has its own hashtag, and this will enable you to keep up with our ongoing coverage from the courtroom. This week we visited three trials. Their hashtags are: #суднадАли (case of Ali Feruz), #судвамнедимон (case of Andrei Kosykh) and #судАВН (case of the Army of the People’s Will).