20 September 2021
Pavel Grin-Romanov has been sentenced to three years in a penal colony for using pepper spray to protect his wife at a protest rally as it was being broken up by the authorities
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Moscow resident Pavel Grin-Romanov a political prisoner. We believe he has been prosecuted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The criminal case against Grin-Romanov was politically motivated and his unjustifiably harsh punishment is intended to intimidate citizens who take part in protest actions.
Memorial demands the immediate release of Grin-Romanov from custody and that the verdict in his case be reviewed.
- Who is Pavel Grin-Romanov and what were the charges against him?
On 9 April 2021 Pavel Grin-Romanov, a computer administrator from Moscow, was sentenced by Meshchansky district court to three years and six months in a general-regime penal colony for an offence under Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Use of violence dangerous to life or health against a public official in connection with their performance of official duties’). On 20 July 2021 Moscow City Court cut the sentence to three years in a general-regime penal colony.
Grin-Romanov was charged with having used pepper spray against a group of OMON riot police officers during the dispersal of a peaceful rally on Komsomolskaya Square on 31 January 2021. The pepper spray allegedly caused chemical burns to the eyes of the commander of a motorised OMON company. The harsh sentence was imposed despite the fact that the judge indicated a number of mitigating circumstances in the verdict and the victim stated he had no claims against the young man and accepted his apologies.
- Why does Memorial consider Pavel Grin-Romanov a political prisoner?
While formally Pavel Grin-Romanov’s actions may contain evidence of a crime under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, the context of what happened, as well as the reactions by law enforcement and the courts to what Grin-Romanov did, need to be taken into account.
Grin-Romanov used the pepper spray in the course of a mass protest that was an expression of the public outcry over the blatantly unlawful detention of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who had been the victim of an assassination attempt with a weapons-grade poison. The security forces used indiscriminate violence against the participants of this rally, as they did against participants in other rallies in support of Navalny. Grin-Romanov himself claims he used the gas canister because he was afraid for his wife after an OMON officer, who was next to her, had hit a demonstrator on the head with a truncheon.
The video of Grin-Romanov’s ‘crime’ posted by the Investigative Committee shows the victim wearing a helmet with his visor down. For that reason we have doubts about the claims he was physically injured. Moreover, a public polyclinic refused to issue the officer in question with a medical certificate that would enable him to take time off work, finding no harm to his health. However, the departmental polyclinic that serves his place of work did issue him with a certificate. On these grounds, we believe investigators may have falsified evidence in the case and we consider that Grin-Romanov’s guilt with regard to a crime under Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code remains unproven.
Based on the usual law enforcement and judicial practice with regard to Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, we believe that if Grin-Romanov had committed exactly the same acts, with the same mitigating circumstances and positive character references, but not at a protest rally, he would not have been in remanded in custody, would not have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and possibly the criminal charges against him would have been dropped altogether or have been replaced by less serious charges.
We consider that a selective criminal prosecution of this kind shows a clear bias on the part of the Russian authorities.
More information about the case of Pavel Grin-Romanov 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 you can help
Address for letters : Pavel Sergeevich Grin-Romanov (dob 1997), Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 2, Perm Region Federal Penitentiary Service, 20 Let Pobedy Street, Building No. 224, Solikamsk, Perm Region, Russia, 618540 [In Russian: 618540, Пермский край, г. Соликамск, ул. 20 лет Победы, д. 224, ФКУ СИЗО-2 ГУФСИН России по Пермскому краю, Грин-Романову Павлу Сергеевичу 1997 г. р.]. You can pay to send electronic mail to Pavel Grin-Romanov via the FSIN-Pismo system (http://fsin-pismo.ru/client/app/letter/create) or use the free system available on the Rosuznik website (http://rosuznik.org).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove