Memorial Human Rights Centre: The prosecution of Nizhny Novgorod opposition activists Natalia Rezontova and Roman Tregubov is unlawful and politically motivated

2 December 2021

The activists are being prosecuted for violating ‘sanitation’ rules in their local area after they called for people to join a demonstration in support of Aleksei Navalny on 23 January

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines,  considers the criminal prosecution of Nizhny Novgorod activists Natalia Rezontova and Roman Tregubov unlawful and politically motivated.

We believe the prosecution of Rezontova and Tregubov is solely related to their political views and their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. 

Their prosecution is in violation of the right to a fair trial and is intended to put an end to the public activities of those who criticise the authorities and to intimidate supporters of Aleksei Navalny. 

We demand that the charges against Rezontova and Tregubov be dropped immediately and that those responsible for the unlawful prosecution of the Nizhny Novgorod opposition activists be brought to justice.

Who is being prosecuted in the Nizhny Novgorod ‘sanitation case’ and what exactly are the charges?

Natalia Rezontova, a Nizhny Novgorod activist and journalist, and Roman Tregubov, a former coordinator of Navalny’s local headquarters (in June 2021 Navalny’s headquarters were declared extremist organisations and dissolved), are accused of violating sanitation standards under Article 236, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (which carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment). The grounds for the criminal prosecution were that a week earlier Rezontova and Tregubov had called for people to take part in a protest in solidarity with opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, who had been arrested on his return to Russia on 17 January 2021.

Tregubov left Russia in February 2021. 

On 1 March 2021 a court imposed pre-trial restrictions on Rezontova in the form of a ban on certain actions.

Why Memorial considers their prosecution politically motivated?

  • We believe that the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection are not sufficient grounds for an unconditional ban on public events (including single-person pickets) and grossly violate the right to freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution. 
  • The defendants in the Nizhny Novgorod ‘sanitation case,’ and similar cases, did not know and could not have known that people who were self-isolating might have responded to their calls on social networks. The actions of the defendants in the case do not constitute a crime, since they cannot be held responsible for irresponsible behavior by others. Moreover, there is no unequivocal evidence that public events held with the necessary precautions in the open air can seriously affect the incidence of coronavirus infection in comparison with attendance at events of a cultural or entertainment nature, or with travelling on public transport.
  • All the ‘sanitary cases’ in Nizhny Novgorod, as in other cities, are intended solely to stop the activities of activists and to intimidate citizens inclined to support the opposition. This is especially clear given that, immediately before the opening of criminal proceedings under Article 236 of the Russian Criminal Code, Resontova, Tregubov and other Nizhny Novgorod oppositionists came under severe pressure from the local police, including from the anti-extremism police department.
  • We have every reason to believe that the Nizhny Novgorod ‘sanitation case’ was part of a campaign to put pressure on opposition candidates prior to the Russian Federation State Duma elections. On 30 July 2021 the Nizhny Novgorod region Election Commission refused to register Rezontova as a candidate in the elections to the State Duma from the Yabloko Party, citing the Ministry of Justice and the Nizhny Novgorod regional Ministry of Internal Affairs which held she was not eligible for nomination as a candidate because of her affiliation with ‘extremist’ organisations (i.e. with Navalny’s regional headquarters). A year earlier Resontova had come second in elections to the Nizhny Novgorod city Duma.

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

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

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Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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