Memorial Human Rights Centre: Aleksandr Shestun, former head of Serpukhov district in Moscow Region, is a political prisoner

21 May 2021

Aleksandr Shestun has been sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony on charges of large-scale fraud, money laundering, illegal business activity and receiving bribes

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers Aleksandr Shestun, former head of the Serpukhov district in Moscow Region, a political prisoner. We believe he is being prosecuted for his political beliefs and that he has been imprisoned in violation of his right to a fair trial.

We demand an immediate review of the measures and court decisions taken against him.

  • Who is Aleksandr Shestun and what are the charges against him? 

From 2003 until his arrest on 13 June 2018 Aleksandr Shestun was head of the Serpukhov district in Moscow Region.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against Shestun and he was remanded in custody after he made a number of public statements, including the announcement of his intention to stand for reelection as head of the district, criticism of the administrative reform of Moscow Region and his decision to grant permission for a rally to be held against the Lesnaya landfill. Shestun also published an open letter to President Vladimir Putin together with audio recordings of threats made to him by top officials from the presidential administration, the FSB and the Moscow Region governor’s office promising to institute criminal proceedings against him if he refused to write a letter of resignation.

He was charged with offences under four articles of the Russian Criminal Code:

– Article 159, Part 4 (fraud);

– Article 174.1, Part 4, Para ‘b’ (legalization of illegally obtained property);

– Article 289 (illegal participation in entrepreneurial activities);

– Article 290, Part 6 (receiving bribes on a specially large scale).

On 21 December 2020 Podolsky town court in Moscow Region found Shestun guilty on all four counts and sentenced him to 15 years in a strict regime penal colony with a fine of 49.5 million roubles. In addition, the court ruled in favour of a civil claim against Shestun by the local government of Serpukhov municipal district to the amount of 64.5 million roubles.

Shestun maintained his innocence of all charges.

In 2019-2020 the courts also ruled in favour of two civil suits brought by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, under which all property was seized from Shestun and his family.

  • Why does Memorial consider Shestun’s prosecution and conviction politically motivated?

Memorial Human Rights Centre believes Aleksandr Shestun has been imprisoned for political reasons, namely to prevent him participating in local elections and, at the same time, to demonstratively punish someone for daring to make public threats they had received from senior officials.

These officials included governor of the Moscow Region Andrei Vorobiev, head of the presidential administration’s domestic affairs directorate Andrei Yarin, head of the administration of the Moscow Region governor Mikhail Kuznetsov and FSB general Ivan Tkachev. It is indicative that none of these individuals denied the authenticity of the materials published by Shestun.

Analysis of the case materials leads us to conclude that Shestun did not have a fair trial. Some of the evidence used to convict him was obtained by means of intimidation of witnesses in violation of Article 6 of the European Human Rights Convention. The overwhelming majority of the charges against Shestun were not proven in court.

The right to a fair trial was also violated during the civil lawsuits brought against Shestun by the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Instead of a showcase anti-corruption prosecution, we have seen a political show trial. The message broadcast from the very top of the Russian government is not that those in official positions should not break the law, but that they should not publicly clash with officials who are more powerful than them.

More information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre are 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 

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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