Memorial Human Rights Centre: Navalny supporter assaulted at a St. Petersburg protest is a political prisoner

6 December 2021

Eldar Garipov allegedly scratched the leg of a riot policeman, at the same time smashing his own head against a rubber baton 

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Eldar Garipov a political prisoner. He is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of assembly. He has been remanded in custody, which is clearly inappropriate given the actions with which he has been charged and runs counter to current judicial practice.

We demand that Eldar Garipov be released, that all charges against him be dropped and that the assault against him be investigated. 

What are the charges against Garipov?

On 31 January 2021, Eldar Garipov took part in a peaceful protest in St. Petersburg against the jailing of Aleksei Navalny. The video of his arrest in the criminal case file shows a group of riot police grabbing Garipov, knocking him down (with one of them striking him with a baton from behind), twisting his arms behind him and throwing him onto the snow, chest down. Photos of the arrest and video from the police van show the activist’s face covered in blood.

On 3 February 2021 the Investigative Committee instituted criminal proceedings against Garipov under Article 318, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code. According to the Investigative Committee, at the time of his arrest Garipov tore the trouser leg of OMON riot police sergeant Sergei Kopa and ‘struck him at least once in the right hip area, as a result of which the victim experienced pain and moral suffering.’ Garipov was charged on 8 February and on 11 February he was remanded in custody.

 Since September 2021 Garipov’s trial has been taking place in the Leninsky district court in St. Petersburg. 

Why does Memorial consider Garipov a political prisoner?

  • Garipov allegedly committed the actions with which he has been charged during the unlawful dispersal of a protest during which the authorities grossly violated the right of citizens to peaceful assembly and each of the demonstrators risked being unlawfully detained and assaulted. In such conditions, even a real physical confrontation with the police on the part of demonstrators in a number of cases was a matter of self-defence.
  • The assessment by law enforcement officials of the actions of the parties at the protest is asymmetrical. According to OVD-Info, at least 63 demonstrators were injured by law enforcement officers all over Russia on 31 January. At the same time, no criminal charges have been brought against any law enforcement officers. Only demonstrators have been prosecuted. Medical documents recorded serious injuries suffered by Garipov and abrasions to the leg of Sergeant Kopa, not injurious to his health. While Garipov’s guilt is ‘proved’ only by contradictory testimony by the very riot police officers who detained and used force against him, at the same time there is considerable evidence that the riot police officers were guilty of causing the injuries suffered by Eldar Garipov. 
  • The video in the case file that has been studied by Memorial shows one of the OMON riot officers striking Eldar Garipov from behind with a truncheon (it is not clear which part of his body was hit) with such force that Garipov lost his balance and fell to the ground. Then Garipov was placed face down in the snow, two OMON riot police officers piled on top of him and twisted his arms behind his back, while two others held his legs. In this position it is impossible to kick anyone. We believe the video disproves the testimony of the ‘victim’ and his colleagues that Eldar Garipov struck the police sergeant and tore his trousers.
  • We have repeatedly noted differences in law enforcement practice with regard to Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code between ‘political’ and ‘non-political’ cases. In ‘non-political’ cases, the courts usually impose significantly milder pre-trial restrictions and more lenient sentences, limited to fines or suspended sentences. 

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

Letters can be sent to: Eldar Valerievich Garipov (born 1996), 9, Kolpinskaya St., Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service for St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, St. Petersburg, 196655 [196655, Санкт-Петербург, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по г. Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской области, Гарипову Эльдару Валерьевичу, 1995 г. р.]

Electronic letters can be sent via FSIN-Letter for a fee or via Rosuznik for no charge.

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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