17 March 2022
Evgeny Esenov has been sentenced to four years in prison for striking the helmet of a riot police officer
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Evgeny Esenov a political prisoner. He has been deprived of liberty for exercising his right of assembly. The harsh sentence handed down against Esenov goes against existing judicial practice and is clearly disproportionate to the actions with which he was charged.
We believe the demonstrative severity of the sentence imposed on the participant in a protest is intended to intimidate all those who disagree with the policies of the Russian authorities.
We demand that the prosecution of Evgeny Esenov be subject to a fair judicial review.
The case against Esenov
On 23 January 2021, 38-year-old businessman Evgeny Esenov physically resisted law enforcement officers detaining participants in a Moscow rally in support of Aleksei Navalny. A video appeared on the web showing Esenov trying to strike a police officer’s helmet with his fist.
On 25 January 2021, police officer Zaraev attended a clinic of the Russian Interior Ministry where he was diagnosed with ‘bruising of the left frontal area of the head’ and ‘concussion.’ The injuries were described as ‘minor.’
On 25 January 2021, Evgeny Esenov was arrested.
On 20 May 2021, a judge sitting in Moscow’s Tverskoi district court sentenced Esenov to four years in a general regime penal colony for using violence dangerous to life or health against a public official (Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).
Why Memorial considers Esenov a political prisoner
Having studied the materials of the criminal case, we have come to the following conclusions:
- The incident occurred during the unlawful dispersal of a protest. The authorities grossly violated the right of citizens to peaceful assembly. The atmosphere of police violence during those hours suggests an element of necessary self-defence in Esenov’s actions. This is essentially confirmed by the police officers, who testified they detained Esenov for resisting the arrest of other demonstrators;
- The justice system does not treat the actions of parties to the events in an equal and fair manner. According to OVD-Info, on 23 January 2021 law enforcement officers injured at least 64 demonstrators across Russia. At the same time, not a single criminal case was opened against law enforcement officers. Only protesters were prosecuted. The video shows police officers beating Esenov with batons. However, neither the investigative authorities nor the courts investigated the lawfulness of these blows and possible injuries to the demonstrator himself;
- The police officer did not suffer any serious injury, even according to the investigators (furthermore, Esenov’s defence cast doubt on the diagnosis of the Interior Ministry clinic). After the blow, which Esenov allegedly struck at 2:40 p.m., the officer continued to work until late in the evening. He did not go to the clinic until two days later. In court, the officer stated he had no claims against the accused and asked for any punishment to be mitigated;
- Differences in enforcement of Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code between political and non-political cases have repeatedly been noted. In non-political cases, the courts usually impose less severe sentences, limited to fines or suspended sentences.
A more detailed description of this case and the position of Memorial is available on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How to help
Address for letters in English: Evgeny Anatolievich Esenov (born 1983), Penal Colony No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service for the Republic of Kalmykia, Severny No. 9 Residential District, Elista, Republic of Kalmykia, Russia, 358007.
Address in Russian: 358007, Республика Калмыкия, г. Элиста, жилой квартал Северный № 9, ФКУ ИК №1 УФСИН России по Республике Калмыкия, Есенову Евгению Анатольевичу, 1983 г. р.
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Translated by Simon Cosgrove