Russian activists face prosecution in the run up to the presidential elections

Law enforcement are prosecuting activists left, right and centre ahead of the elections, stigmatising public activity and protest. 

9 March 2018

Denis Mikhailov. Source: Navalny Team in St Petersburg. A version of this text originally appeared on OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated detentions and freedom of assembly in Russia.

The well-known Moscow activist Mark Galperin has been given a two-year suspended sentence for two videos. The videos, in which Galperin discusses the possibility of revolution, were considered to contain an incitement to extremism. According to the court ruling, for the next three months Galperin is banned from taking part in the activities of civil society groups.

In Crimea, the home of left-wing activist Alexey Shestakovich was searched, after which he was taken away with a plastic bag on his head. During the search, Shestakovich was kept on the floor of the apartment in his underwear and in handcuffs. He was subsequently jailed for ten days. Along with him, trade union activist Ivan Markov was also arrested and then jailed for ten days. However, Markov was released early when an appeal court quashed the ruling to jail him.

Two jail terms in a row for one and the same thing. The coordinator of the St Petersburg headquarters of Alexey Navalny’s campaign for an election boycott, Denis Mikhailov, had not been able to leave the detention centre where he had been serving a 30-day jail sentence for organising the “Voters’ Strike” of 28 January before he was again arrested, taken to a court and once again jailed — this time for 25 days. And again for the Voters’ Strike. Only this time for being a participant in the protest.

Ekaterinburg activist Sergey Tyunov has been jailed for 15 days. He was arrested carrying a placard critical of Putin. On the placard was written: “If you want six more years of lies and thieving, then vote for Putin.” Tyunov was charged with a repeat violation of the regulations governing public assemblies. He has declared a hunger strike.

Following the preliminary investigation, the case against court secretary Alexander Eivazov has now reached the prosecutor’s office. Eivazov has been charged with hindering the course of justice and defaming a judge. The formal reason for the initiation of the case against him was that Eivazov had refused to sign an official record of a court hearing. Eivazov said that he did not sign the document because it had been drawn up by another officer of the court. The real reason for his criminal prosecution, human rights defenders believe, is the numerous complaints about violations in court proceedings that Eivazov had made to various authorities.

Twelve days in solitary confinement for bread found in a bedside table. Тhis is the punishment meted out to Alexey Mironov, a volunteer at Navalny’s Cheboksary campaign headquarters sentenced to two and a half years in prison for social media posts. Mironov asserts that he had not kept any bread in the bedside table. Meanwhile, the authorities are preparing to prosecute Egor Chernyuk, coordinator of Navalny’s headquarters in Kaliningrad, on charges of avoiding military service..

The Commission for Children’s Affairs is taking an interest in the son of an Open Russia activist. Coordinator of the Krasnodar branch of Open Russia, Yana Antonova, has been fined in connection with the public event commemorating the death of Boris Nemtsov — an event with which, she has stated, she had no connection. After the event, she was told that staff of the Commission for Children’s Affairs were seeking to establish the actual address at which her ten-year-old son lives.

Politically-motivated prosecutions are nothing new. Recent convictions of participants in protests bring to mind a case of 50 years ago. We have published the final words of Vladimir Bukovsky at his trial when he was sentenced to three years in a prison camp for taking part in a demonstration on Pushkin Square on 22 January 1967.

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