19 September 2020
Hi! This week, it’s the Russian National Guard versus feminist film, the courts versus activists and OVD-Info versus improper quarantine measures.
Verdict in the Bakhchysarai branch of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. A court in Rostov-on-Don has read out its verdict against eight defendants in the Bakhchysarai branch of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. One person was acquitted and seven were given prison sentences ranging from 13 to 14 years.
- Why do I need to know this? The prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of the largest-scale political prosecutions in Russia. As a result of the organisation’s baseless classification as a terrorist group, many people who have no involvement in assault or in planning acts of terror are receiving huge, two-figure prison sentences. Meanwhile in Crimea the Russian authorities are using this same ruling as a pretext for putting pressure on disloyal activists from the movement of Crimean Tatars. A defendant before a court in Rostov-on-Don was the first to be acquitted during the prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Russia. At the same time, the number of people facing charges has risen above 200.
Daria Poliudova receives a further charge. Since January of this year, Poliudova has been held on remand as part of a case on justifying terrorism and inciting separatism. Another count of justifying terrorism has now been added to the charges against her. According to the activist’s lawyer, the new charge may be connected with statements Polidova made about an the Lubyanka shooter, who opened fire at the FSB’s headquarters.
- Why does this matter? Poliudova has already served a previous prison sentence for charges relating to separatism. Both then and now, it has been unclear what actual harm the activist’s statements could have caused and who could have taken them seriously. The state readily uses articles on criminal speech in order to prosecute any political activists or people who are simply disloyal, even if their words never led to any actual consequences.
Court detains Open Russia’s director for the second time in a row. Moscow’s Meshchansky court arrested Open Russia’s executive director, Andrei Pivovarov, immediately after his release from a special detention facility where he had been serving his previous administrative sentence. The court issued Pivovarov a new ten-day sentence because he supposedly used his Telegram channel to call for participation in unauthorised protests. The activist had previously been detained for 14 days because he collected signatures opposing changes to the Constitution.
- Why do I need to know this? Open Russia’s activists often come up against pressure from the security services at all levels. This may well be linked with the fact that Putin bears a personal grudge against Open Russia’s founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and his desire to be personally involved in Russian politics. The practice of re-arresting individuals immediately after their release was tried out in 2019 on candidates for election to the Moscow City Duma, several of whom were detained on administrative charges 3 or 4 times in a row.
Acquittals in political cases. In Russia, only 0.36% of cases are acquitted, and so it is surprising that sometimes even defendants in politically-motivated cases are acquitted. Nastia Medvedeva explains this rare but invaluable occurrence specially for OVD-Info.
Screening of feminist film broken up in Moscow. On 15th September the Ministry for Internal Affairs and the Russian National Guard fearlessly broke up a screening of the documentary film Vulva 3.0 which was held in support of Iulia Svetkova, an LGBT activist who has been charged with distributing pornography. OVD-Info publishes the story of Anna Bralkova, who was involved in organising the screening and who was there to witness it when the security forces arrived.
Police arrest a man at random and then declare him wanted for administrative offences. In March, Nikita Esin was arrested at a bus stop not far from the place where Muscovites were protesting the construction of the Southeast Chord expressway. In September, Nikita ended up in police custody for a second time because, according to the police, he was “on the administrative wanted list.” Granted, they did struggle to explain what that actually means. Click here to read more about mysterious entities, born in the heads of law enforcement officers.
And finally, OVD-Info’s analysts and lawyers have looked into the restrictions on freedom of assembly that were introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus and have released a new report about them. It is both detailed and illustrative – click here to read it.
Every day we take phone calls on our hotline, publish news and features about political repression in Russia, release guidance, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers handle criminal cases and submit complaints to the ECHR, while our IT-team works day in, day out to make our services more user-friendly. All of this can happen thanks to your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue work and to send you your favourite mailing and more.
Translated by Judith Fagelson