26 November 2021
Sergei Komandirov has been charged with justification of terrorism for reposting a video on VK of a dramatization of a trial of Putin and his associates
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Smolensk activist Sergei Komandirov a political prisoner. We believe he has been deprived of liberty for the non-violent exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and dissemination of information. The prosecution of Komandirov is intended to stop his legitimate public activities and intimidate other critics of the authorities.
We demand that Komandirov be released immediately and that the charges against him be dropped.
Who is Sergei Komandirov?
Sergei Komandirov is a civic and political activist from Smolensk and creator of the Telegram channel, ‘We demand answers. Russia.’ In 2017 – 2018 he was a volunteer and photo correspondent for Aleksei Navalny’s local headquarters (in the summer of 2021, Navalny’s headquarters in Russia were declared extremist organizations and banned).
Komandirov has already been prosecuted several times for his political activities. Since May 2018 he has been prosecuted several times for administrative offences. He was sentenced to fines and community work. In October 2019 his home was searched (as has been the case with many other current or former employees and activists of Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was also declared an extremist organization and banned in Russia in the summer of 2021) as part of the criminal investigation into the Anti-Corruption Foundation.
What is the essence of the case against Komandirov?
The grounds for the criminal case against Komandirov for justification of terrorism (Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) was a repost on the VK social media site of a video of a dramatization of a trial of Putin and his associates.
In March 2021 Karim Yamadaev, the author of the video, was convicted for the same offence of justification of terrorism (Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) as well as for the offence of insulting the authorities (Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code) and fined 300,000 roubles. Memorial declared Yamadaev, who spent more than a year in pre-trial detention, a political prisoner. We pointed out that the creation of this video was no grounds for a criminal prosecution and the prosecution was politically motivated.
Since 7 October 2021 Sergei Komandirov has been held in pre-trial detention.
Why do we consider Sergei Komandirov a political prisoner?
The video, which Komandirov is being prosecuted for reposting, shows a fictional trial of Vladimir Putin, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov and the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin. In the video, the court sentences Peskov and Sechin to death. The sentence is carried out behind the scenes. Putin is not sentenced in the video.
The video does not call for violence, or indeed any actions at all, and the author additionally informs viewers that the video is not intended to promote violence or incite hatred, the event dramatized is fictional, and all coincidences with real persons or names are accidental.
However, according to the prosecution, the staged execution in the video constitutes justification of terrorism.
At the same time, the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation expressly states that ‘a call to terrorism’ is a direct appeal to citizens encouraging them to commit a crime of a terrorist nature and ‘justification of terrorism’ is a public avowal of the attractiveness and permissibility of the ideology of terrorism, that is, of the terrorizing of a population by means of acts of violence.
There is nothing of the kind either in the published video or in Komandirov’s commentary to it. The appeal to collect money to pay the fine imposed on Yamadaev is not a call for the financing of terrorism, contrary to the assertion of the investigators.
Essentially, Komandirov (as well as the author of the video clip, Yamadaev) is accused of making disrespectful and critical comments about the current president and his associates. Such actions in themselves are neither a crime nor even a violation in any sense whatsoever.
It is worth noting separately that the video, entitled Judge Gremm, has not itself yet been banned by Roskomnadzor. Similarly, its publication in the VK group ‘We demand answers | Smolensk | Russia’ is also still accessible. This gives grounds to consider the video as a ‘trap’ for anyone who reposts it.
More information about the case of Sergei Komandirov and our arguments in his defence are available on the website of Memorial Human Rights Centre.
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@example.com.
Translated by Rights in Russia