Memorial Human Rights Centre: The criminal prosecution of Krasnodar activist Yana Antonova is unlawful and politically motivated

6 August 2020

Antonova was involved in ordinary political activities. She is being prosecuted under an unjust article of the Russian Criminal Code for participation in the activities of an undesirable organization because she is a supporter of Open Russia.

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


Who is Yana Antonova and what is she accused of?

Yana Antonova is a pediatric surgeon, a civic activist and a candidate in the upcoming elections to Krasnodar city assembly. From March 2017 to March 2019 Antonova was coordinator of the Open Russia movement in Krasnodar Region. On 9 April 2019, Antonova’s apartment was searched. The same day it became known that, on 29 March 2019, the federal Investigative Committee had initiated criminal proceedings against her under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code (carrying out the activities on the territory of the Russian Federation of a foreign or international NGO whose activities have been designated as undesirable in the Russian Federation; punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment). On 21 May 2019 Antonova was charged and pre-trial travel restrictions were imposed on her.

According to the indictment, having already been convicted more than twice of offences under Article 20.33 of the Code of Administrative Offences (carrying out the activities on the territory of the Russian Federation of a foreign or international NGO whose activities have been designated as undesirable in the Russian Federation), on 21 February 2019 Antonova republished a post on Facebook urging readers to attend a rally in memory of Boris Nemtsov that came from the Facebook group ‘Open Russia. Rostov-on-Don;’ on 24 February 2019 she took part in a single-person picket in memory of Nemtsov; and on 3 March 2019 she reposted a photo of the murdered journalist Vladislav Listyev published originally by the ‘Open Russia Team.’ Antonova’s trial, which began on 30 July 2019 in Krasnodar’s Leninsky district court, will shortly be concluding. In connection with this, as well as because Antonova is currently a candidate in the elections to the Krasnodar city assembly, which increases the risks of new violations of her rights, Memorial Human Rights Centre considers it necessary to state its position regarding her prosecution under the criminal law.

Why does Memorial consider Antonova’s prosecution politically motivated and unlawful?

We consider Yana Antonova’s prosecution is unlawful and politically motivated because the very notion of ‘undesirable organisations,’ and the legal rules that punish conduct of their activities on the territory of the Russian Federation, are arbitrary and unjustified and contradict the principle of legal certainty and other fundamental principles of law:

  • Open Russia’s activities are non-violent and lawful, involving political opposition and human rights work that are normal in a democratic society and combine classical forms of NGO and media activities. The alleged specific examples of Antonova’s involvement in the activities of an undesirable organisation are manifestations of her lawful civil society activity. 
  • Antonova’s prosecution is politically motivated: she is being prosecuted in order to terminate her political activities and her criticism of the authorities. 
  • Antonova’s criminal prosecution (as well as the preceding administrative prosecutions under Article 20.33 of the Code of Administrative Offences) contains clear signs of fabrication of evidence: it is claimed that Open Russia is a British organization, although no objective evidence is presented; all available information confirms Open Russia is a Russian civil society association.

Yana Antonova’s prosecution is politically motivated and unlawful, intended to force her to cease, or change the character of, her civil society activity as a political activist solely because of her political beliefs and in connection with her non-violent exercise of freedom of thought, expression and information, the rights of peaceful assembly and association, and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Her prosecution is a part of the state’s repressive actions against both Open Russia (inextricably linked in the authorities’ eyes with  the figure of Mikhail Khodorkovsky) and political opposition in general. Previously, opposition activist Anastasia Shevchenko from Rostov-on-Don, who has been under house arrest for more than a year, was included in the list of political prisoners compiled by Memorial Human Rights Centre. Memorial Human Rights Centre demands that the prosecution of Antonova be ended immediately. We also demand the removal of the unjust Article 284.1 from the Russian Criminal Code.

More information about this case and the position taken by Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected]

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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