Week-ending 17 December 2021
On 15 December 2021 a court in Yessentuki sentenced seven Ingush protest leaders to terms of imprisonment of between seven and a half and nine years. The individuals in question were convicted of ‘creating an extremist group’ and ‘assaulting law enforcement officers’, charges Amnesty International dismissed as ‘baseless.’ The individuals convicted are: Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoyev, and Musa Malsagov (each sentenced to nine years in prison); Barakh Chemurziyev, Bagaudin Khautiyev, and Ismail Nalgiyev (each sentenced to eight years in prison); and Zarifa Sautiyeva (sentenced to seven and a half years in prison). Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the convictions as a “gross violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.” The organisation said: “Once again, Russia has failed not only to meet its obligations under international human rights law, but also to abide by its own constitution. By jailing these protest leaders, the Russian authorities add their names to a long list of Ingush activists imprisoned simply for practising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The baseless charges levelled against them serve as little more than a tool to punish and intimidate activists, while their sentencing sends a chilling message to civil society leaders in Ingushetia and beyond.”
RFE/RL, 15 December 2021: A Russian court has handed lengthy prison terms to seven people who led protests in Ingushetia against a change to the administrative boundaries between the Russian North Caucasus regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia.On December 15, the court in the city of Yessentuki, in the Stavropol Krai region, sentenced Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoyev, and Musa Malsagov to nine years each; Barakh Chemurziyev, Bagaudin Khautiyev, and Ismail Nalgiyev to eight years each; and Zarifa Sautiyeva to 7 1/2 years in prison. The defendants were found guilty of creating an extremist group and assaulting law enforcement officers.
Amnesty International, 15 December 2021: Responding to the sentencing of seven Ingush protest leaders to between 7,5 and 9 years in prison for organizing peaceful protests against the authorities in 2018 and 2019, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: “The sentencing of these protest leaders today represents a gross violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Once again, Russia has failed not only to meet its obligations under international human rights law, but also to abide by its own constitution. “By jailing these protest leaders, the Russian authorities add their names to a long list of Ingush activists imprisoned simply for practising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The baseless charges levelled against them serve as little more than a tool to punish and intimidate activists, while their sentencing sends a chilling message to civil society leaders in Ingushetia and beyond.”
In other news:
Human Rights in Ukraine, 12 December 2021: 51-year-old Dmytro Shtyblikov should have been released on 10 November 2021, after five years in Russian captivity. Instead, Russia’s FSB came up with new charges, as surreal and implausible as the original ‘Crimean saboteur’ accusation used to imprison him, fellow military analyst Oleksiy Bessarabov and Volodymyr Dudka, a retired naval captain. This time, the Ukrainian is accused by the Russian regime that invaded Ukrainian Crimea under Russian law of ‘state treason’. Having made all kinds of grandiose claims back in November 2016, while showing only a Ukrainian flag, a fake business card and sports airguns, this time almost nothing is known about the charges. Nor will it be, since the ‘trial’, of Shtyblikov and Oleksandr Obloha, now beginning at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov, will be behind closed doors.
Meduza, 12 December 2021: Video blogger Yuri Khovansky has been locked up since June, awaiting trial on charges of “justifying terrorism.” For months, he’s claimed in letters released to the public through his lawyers that the police are trying to frame him for performing a banned song about the deadly 2002 Nord-Ost siege. The case against him, Khovansky says, relies on false testimony from a handful of witnesses who claim he played the song in 2018. He says he performed the piece (which he now renounces) only once, in November 2012, which should exonerate him under the statute of limitations. Journalists at the news outlet RBC obtained copies of the case evidence against Khovansky and found that significant portions of the prosecution’s witness testimony repeat identical phrases and even whole paragraphs of text. Two of the three witnesses also appear to be former police officers.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 15 December 2021: The ‘trial’ is underway at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) Rostov (Russia) of two civic activists from Bakhchysarai facing 15-year sentences on preposterous ‘terrorism’ charges. The latter are based on conversations about religion five years ago, and on the clearly suspect ‘testimony’ of two ‘anonymous witnesses’ whose identity and reasons for giving false testimony are well-known.
RFE/RL, 15 December 2021: A Russian court has rejected a request filed by the father of Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, to be transferred to house arrest, his lawyer says. A court in Russia’s Arctic city of Naryan-Mar ruled that his client must stay in a detention center while his trial is under way, Yury Zhdanov’s lawyer, Vladimir Voronin, wrote on Instagram on December 15. The court said that Zhdanov, 67, may leave the country to escape justice if released.
Front Line Defenders, 15 December 2021: On 8 December 2021, the Kirov District Court of the Republic of Crimea ruled in favour of the sentencing of human rights defender Mustafa Seidaliev to 10 days detention. The Court found the human rights defender guilty of “production and publication of extremist data” (Article 20.29 of the Code of Civic Conduct) and “propaganda of prohibited symbols” (Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Civic Conduct) in relation to his social media posts published in 2012. Representatives of the organisation Crimean Solidarity believe that the charges against the human rights defender result from his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 16 December 2021: The grenade which Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Yesypenko is accused of carrying in his car in Russian-occupied Crimea does not fit in the car compartment where the FSB claimed to have found it. This was not the only glaring discrepancy in the prosecution’s case demonstrated during the ‘court’ hearing on 13 December, yet prosecutor Yelena Podolnaya once again demanded and ‘judge’ Dlyaver Berberov ordered that Yesypenko be held in detention until (at least) 18 March 2022, just over a year after he was first seized and imprisoned.
Meduza, 17 December 2021: A Moscow court has upheld the decision to prolong the detention of former journalists and Roscosmos communications advisor Ivan Safronov, who is awaiting trial for treason. For the first time in a long time, journalists were allowed to attend the hearing. Before the court announced its ruling, Safronov wished everyone a happy New Year and said that he had begun to receive letters again after several months of being denied the right to correspondence at the request of investigators. The court ruled to extend Safronov’s detention until January 7, 2022. By that time, he will have been in pre-trial custody for 18 months — the maximum period of detention at the preliminary investigation stage. However, since investigators have already handed over the case materials to the defense for review, they can petition to prolong his detention beyond this period.
RFE/RL, 17 December 2021: A bribery case in southern Russia indicates the country had troops stationed in eastern Ukraine, contradicting a long-held Kremlin position that it has never been a party to the conflict in the region. The verdict in the case against V.H. Zaboluyev, the deputy manager of a food supplier in Rostov-on-Don, a city near eastern Ukraine, states that he oversaw the procurement and delivery of food to “Russian military personnel located in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).”