27 November 2021
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.
Hello! This week participants in protests in support of the Memorial organisations were arrested, opponents of QR codes came under pressure and a Jehovah’s Witness was acquitted in court.
Arrests of protesters supporting the Memorial organisations. This week, in Moscow, the first hearings took place in lawsuits to ban the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre. They have not yet come to any conclusion: the preliminary hearing in the case of Memorial Human Rights Centre case will continue on 29 November and the hearing on the merits of the case against the International Memorial Society on 14 December. At the same time as these court hearings, pickets in support of Memorial are being held. On 20 November, more than 10 people were detained on Pushkin Square in Moscow; on 25 November, four people were detained near the Supreme Court, two of whom were jailed, one for nine days, the other for 25 days.
- Why do I need to know this? Memorial Human Rights Centre is a key partner of OVD-Info, and without its support there would be no hotline, no applications to the ECtHR, no lawyers or attorneys.
In Chelyabinsk, the verdict in the case of the anarchists has been quashed. The Spouses Dmitry Tsibukovsky and Anastasia Safonova were sentenced to two and a half years and two years, respectively, for hanging up a banner reading, “The FSB is the main terrorist”. The anarchists held the protest in support of those involved in the Network case, accused of involvement in a terrorist group and subjected to torture. Now the verdict has been quashed, and Safonova and Tsybukovsky have been released from the pre-trial detention centre and certain restrictions have been imposed on them.
- Why do I need to know this? This is a rather unexpected court decision, but we can be happy for the defendants who have been released so far. Tsibukovsky stated that he confessed under torture. The case against the spouses was first dismissed, then resumed again. Unfortunately, this story does not end with the quashing of the verdict. The criminal case has been sent for reconsideration.
В России впервые оправдали Свидетеля Иеговы по делу об экстремистской организации. Первореченский районный суд Владивостока оправдал Свидетеля Иеговы Дмитрия Бармакина, обвиняемого в организации экстремистской организации. Суд не нашел в действиях Бармакина состав преступления, признав, что проведение религиозных обрядов Свидетелей Иеговы является реализацией прав верующих на свободу религии. Прокуратура просила приговорить подсудимого к девяти годам лишения свободы — к такому большому сроку Свидетелей Иеговы еще не приговаривали.
For the first time in Russia, a Jehovah’s Witness has been acquitted when prosecuted for involvement in an extremist organization. The Pervorechensky district court in Vladivostok acquitted Jehovah’s Witness Dmitry Barmakin accused of organizing an extremist organization. The court found no evidence of a crime in Barmakin’s actions, recognizing that holding religious rituals of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the realization of believers’ rights to freedom of religion. The prosecutor’s office asked for the defendant to be sentenced to nine years in prison – longer than any sentences yet handed down to a Jehovah’s Witness.
- Why is this important? We have noted repeatedly that the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is considered by many human rights activists and experts to be unlawful, because in such cases religious activity is essentially equated with extremism. However, usually the courts listen more to the prosecutor’s office, and here the judge sided with the defence. This is an amazing story.
Protests related to the introduction of QR codes. All over the country different protests against the measures connected with the epidemic take place and the plans to introduce QR codes for visiting public places are especially irritating. In Kazan 40 people were detained at a rally against this initiative. In Kostroma at least eight people were detained during a public rally, in Adler a member of the Communist Party was detained while collecting signatures against QR codes.
- Why is this important? Some may not like the reasons for these protests, but the fact remains that many people are concerned about this issue and are willing to defend their opinions. The authorities’ unwillingness to clearly articulate the degree of danger of the situation and to take responsibility has backfired badly since the beginning of the epidemic. People no longer have much faith in various initiatives designed to stop the disease and to compensate for the failure of the information campaign on vaccination. Well, it is also worth thinking about the future: will this state really give up its ability to fully control the movements of citizens even after the quarantine ends (if it ends at all)?
About the Memorial organisations. Under the pretext of fighting ‘foreign agents’ and the ‘justification of terrorism,’ the state wants to liquidate the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Together with our colleagues from DOXA, we have prepared a piece on how both organizations came into being, what they do, and why they are needed at all.
Memorial is the largest research centre that works on political repression in the USSR and modern Russia and is also dedicated to defending human rights. Here we explain in detail how it came to be, why it is important, and why we all need to defend it.
About repeated fines. In Russia, protesters face not only detentions and the threat of criminal prosecution, but also repeated fines for the same protest. After paying fines for the first time, their accounts are blocked and then the money is taken again. Aleksandr Litoi tried to understand why this happens and how to protect yourself from such things.
About compensation for police overtime. After the winter protests in support of Aleksei Navalny in eight cities, the Interior Ministry filed lawsuits against the people whom the courts found to be the organizers of the rallies. The ministry wants compensation for the salaries of officers who allegedly worked overtime, as well as for fuel for vehicles. Karina Merkuryeva tried to work out whether such lawsuits are legal at all.
Every day we take calls to our hotline, write news and texts about politically motivated prosecutions in Russia, and produce guides, reports, and podcasts. Our lawyers handle criminal cases and prepare applications to the ECtHR, and our IT team works every day to make our services more user-friendly. All of this happens because of your support.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove