OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 85: Something unusual in the courts, police examine a young person's tattoos, and Putin orders review of New Greatness case

posted 16 Dec 2018, 05:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Dec 2018, 04:48 ]
14 December 2018

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Something unusual is happening in Russian courts with the cases of protesters arrested on 9th September. The courts in St Petersburg have dropped two cases against participants in protests against pension reforms, while in Ekaterinburg no less than six cases have been dropped! One of those was a case against a journalist.


The Investigative Committee of Russia has dropped the case against lawyer Mikhail Beniash on obstructing the course of justice. He had been charged with assaulting police officers. On 9th September, the day of the pension reform protests, Beniash had been planning on going to the police station in order to defend detainees. But he himself was arrested. The lawyer told us that he was beaten by the police, while according to the investigation’s version of events, he bit one police officer on the arm and elbowed another three times.

Novokuznetsk, a teenage anarchist received a visit from the police, who wanted to read his Telegram feed and look at his tattoos. Before leaving, the police officers announced that their visit had been “preventative”, and advised the young man to change his appearance. “All that money being collected for political prisoners – you’ll be on the receiving end of it, too”, said law enforcement officers, having clarified that this was “absolutely not a threat.”

Checks on the New Greatness case have been
initiated on the orders of Vladimir Putin. Allegations of torture in this same case will also be under investigation. Meanwhile, all the defendants have had their period of detainment extended until 13th March.

A tracking device has been
found in the car of Tatiana Lebedova, a social activist from Moscow. Lebedeva chairs the Partnership of homeowners in the Moscow squat known as the House on Furmanny. According to the Housing Code, the attic and basement spaces in the high-rise block belong to the residents. They have built a library, a free gym and a museum in the basement, and built a children’s play area in the courtyard; they have also destroyed the front garden. Over the course of ten years, Lebedeva’s work has helped win 150 cases against people who have “appropriated” the non-residential parts of buildings.


Oleg Sentsov is to be moved from the prison’s medical wing to its main cells. The Federal Penitentiary Service has announced that the director has no serious health conditions. His lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, had previously said live on the radio station the Echo of Moscow (Ekho Moskvy) that damage had been found to Sentsov’s heart, liver and kidneys, due to his prolonged hunger strike.

The Justice Initiative is heightening its security measures due to threats received following the publication of its report on honour killings. The report, entitled Killed by Gossip: honour killings of women in the North Caucasus, is the country’s first attempt at a scientific analysis of killings of this nature in Russia. 


“There’s a joke. It goes: one judge asks another, “can you put away an innocent person?” The second judge replies, “What? Of course not! I’d give him a suspended sentence.” We explain how suspended sentences work, how they differ from real punishments, and why they make the route from home to prison so easy – as was the case with environmental activist Evegeny Vitishko.


“There are no politics here, only human rights.” Representatives from five human rights organisations have requested authorisation to hold a Rally of Openness on Pushkin Square. The Moscow authorities denied them authorisation. The activists are insisting that this rally is held on Pushkin Square, and nowhere else – we explain why.

The Military Investigative Committee of Russia will once again investigate allegations of illegality and torture in the Networks case. On 7th December, two sessions were held regarding complaints from Dmitry Pchelintsev, a defendant in the networks case, and his lawyers. One of these related to the refusal to investigate instances of torture, and the second related to the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings against investigator Valery Tokarev. Tokarev had offered Pchelintsev a plea bargain, whereby he would be given a sentence of 5 to 10 years. Pchelintsev refused and received a guilty verdict, for which he is facing a prison sentence which could range from 10 years to life imprisonment. Read how the session went here.


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Illustration by Anastasiya Pozhidaev for OVD-Info

Translation by Judith Fagelson