OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 139: Lawyer and journalist attacked in Chechnya, arrests in Ingushetia and religious persecution

8 February 2020
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Hi. Defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Tatarstan have been given huge prison sentences; human rights activists in Chechnya are once again coming under pressure; and activists in Ingushetia are facing continued persecution.

Chechnya. In Grozny, lawyer Marina Dubrovina and Novaya gazeta journalist Elena Milashina were attacked by an aggressive mob of men and women. Dubrovina and Milashina had come to Chechnya for the trial of blogger Islam Nukhanov. The attackers smashed Milashina’s head into the marble floor and kicked her in the stomach.

Why does this matter? Attacks like this are, sadly, all too familiar to Chechen human rights activists. It is rare for the attackers to be found. They were never found, for instance, when Igor Kaliapin was doused with green antiseptic dye, nor when a minivan belonging to the Anti-Torture Committee was set alight on the Chechen-Ingush border.

Hizb ut-Tahrir. Prison sentences ranging from 11 to 22 years have been issued in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Kazan. The charges were based on evidence given by secret witnesses, and all the defendants pled not guilty.

Why does this matter? Individuals suspected of being members of the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir are facing lengthy prison sentences for discussing Islamic law and exchanging religious books. They have not committed any acts of terror and are arguing for peaceful political competition; however, their party has been on the register of terrorist organisations since 2003.

Jehovah’s Witnesses. More than 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been added to a list of terrorists and extremists held by Russia’s federal financial monitoring service, Rosinfomonitoring. At the same time, in Khanty-Mansiysk believers have been arrested and forced to undergo psychiatric assessments. Meanwhile, in Lipetsk, summonses were issued to everyone who had come out in support of the community members.

Why does this matter? Ever since the declaration of the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre as an extremist organisation, followers of the Christian group have been facing criminal prosecution the country over, for no reason other than their religious convictions.

Ingushetia. There have been developments in the criminal case in Ingushetia that followed the protests against the border changes agreed with Chechnya. Following fresh searches, four activists were taken into custody on charges of assaulting police officers. The relatives of one of the protest leaders also had their home searched. The head of human rights project Ambulance, who had been helping detainees, was also summoned to the Moscow City Police department.

Why does this matter? The case – dubbed the Ingush Bolotnaya Square – is the largest criminal prosecution of oppositionist activists launched by the Ingush authorities following the March 2019 protests. At least 39 people are facing criminal charges, of whom 33 are in custody.


The case against the blogger. In the Bryansk Region, five criminal cases have simultaneously launched against blogger and entrepreneur Aleksandr Kolomeitsev: two on insulting representatives of the authorities, one on disclosure of personal information, one on inflicting minor injuries in self-defence, and one on energy theft. Read his story here.

Forbidden acts. Since 2018, there has been a new way of imposing restrictions in Russia – banning specific acts. We untangled how this works in politically-motivated cases and how people who have been affected feel about it.


Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Photo: Iz zy, Unsplash

Translation by Judith Fagelson

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