OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 18: Russian court acquits journalist Sergei Vilkov of defamation charges

posted 1 Sep 2017, 04:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Sep 2017, 14:52 ]
1 September 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, a Saratov court acquitted journalist Sergei Vilkov in a case concerning alleged defamation of a member of the region’s legislative assembly. The suit was brought after Vilkov published a copy of a police report about a member of an organised crime gang on social media (and was subject to pressure for over two years). The personal data of the individual concerned matched those of Sergei Kurikhin, a deputy in Saratov’s regional legislative assembly. The judge decided there was a lack of evidence to prove the journalist’s guilt.

Danis Safargali, leader of the Altyn Urda (Golden Horde) movement, has been sentenced to three years in a general-regime prison colony. Safargali was charged with inciting hatred and hostility in connection with 15 publications on the VKontakte social media site, including a video “The Russian-Fascist Pseudo-Spirituality of the Russian Orthodox Church”. Safargali has also been charged with other offences (hooliganism, causing minor injury and assault) in connection with a fight during which one of his opponents kicked his pregnant wife in the stomach. We describe in detail Safargali’s case here.

Eighteen people were arrested at an officially permitted protest rally in Moscow on Saturday 26 August, “For a Free Internet.” At the start of the rally “clowns from City Hall” cut out a word from a banner that hung above the stage. The initial text had read “You won’t take the Internet from us, you scum [gady]” but officials took offence at the last word.

During the rally, neo-Nazis tried to seize a rainbow flag from female LGBT activists, after which police detained the women. Those arrested also included a person who wore a Putin mask, and all the members of a group supporting Ali Feruz. Ali Feruz, a journalist with Novaya Gazeta, has been held in a detention centre for foreign citizens since a court halted his deportation to Uzbekistan, following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. His life is in danger in his native country.

We have published a new article about Prison Colony No. 1 in Yaroslav region where police officers with nicknames such as “SS” have been beating prisoners. OVD-Info correspondents Alexei Polikhovich and Kseniya Sonnaya travelled to meet Bolotnaya Square prisoner Ivan Nepomnyashchikh on his release, and learned about why prison authorities order the beating of prisoners.

In Petrozavodsk an activist has been arrested for a comment “Read poems, ladies and gentlemen, to your children and read them yourselves, so we won’t have any ape men or bitches in police uniform.”On 27 August, activist and blogger Aleksei Trunov was detained and taken by police to the city’s Anti-Extremism Centre. A woman had allegedly complained about the comment the activist added to her post about the detention of a boy outside the Arbat metro station in Moscow for reading extracts from Hamlet.

On 23 August Ivan Skripnichenko, one of a group of volunteers who maintained the popular memorial to Boris Nemtsov at the site where the politician was murdered, died. A few days before his death an unidentified person had assaulted Skripnichenko at the memorial.

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For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.