6 August 2022
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! Sasha Skochilenko, a defendant in an “anti-war case” is again not getting food in prison, 12 people have been sentenced to long prison terms in Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions, and the Ministry of Justice has deemed incompetent an expert whose linguistic expertise was used in many political cases.
The Ministry of Justice has declared incompetent an expert who declared Navalny’s logo to be extremist. The agency stated its opinion in reply to lawyers’ enquiries, noting twice that 22-year-old Danil Mikheev lacked philological education and other competences essential for linguistic expertise. Mikheev had conducted expert examinations in many politically motivated cases, including the criminal case against Sergei Komandirov, who was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for internet posts and the administrative case against Pussy Riot members Maria Alekhina and Lucy Shtein; and he appeared in the case of the blocking of the OVD-Info website.
- Why is this important? Although Ministry of Justice officials have not revealed whether the cases in which Mikheev acted as an expert will be reviewed, human rights activists hope this will happen. The Telegram channel Politzek-Info has compiled all the known cases in which Mikheev acted and suggests that lawyers come together to “cancel” the incompetent expert. The channel believes that if defence lawyers start to call out his expertise as inadequate evidence where it is still possible to do so, a review of cases might start.
Defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir cases in various regions have been sentenced to terms of up to 18 years in prison. On 4 August, ten people in the Tiumen region were convicted – they were found guilty under the article on organising and participating in the activities of a terrorist organisation. Alim Timkanov received 18 years in prison, Marat Saybatalov 17, Ruslan Bariev 14, Aydair Tashbutalov and Shahboz Makhmudov 13, Damir Abdrafikov and Ruslan Fomin 12, Farrukh Makhkamov, Rafis Idrisov and Turatbek Osmankulov 11. Some of those convicted spoke of torture during the investigation. The next day two more people were sentenced in a different region: Kemerovo. Sanatjon Khaldarov and Mukhamadjon Niyazov received 13 and 11 years respectively, in a strict regime penal colony.
- Why do I need to know this? The Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions have been going on in Russia for a long time, but not much is known about them, although the number of prisoners is already in the hundreds and they are being given very long sentences. It’s possible that the issue is that in Russia Hizb ut-Tahrir is labelled a terrorist organisation on a par with the Taliban, and people don’t think about its supporters as political prisoners. But human rights activists insist that Hizb ut-Tahrir is unlawfully recognised as terrorist and that its supporters do not commit violent crimes. In contrast to the militant and dangerous Taliban movement, which has seized power in Afghanistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir has not seized power anywhere and has not even tried (as far as we know). Nor has anyone identified them as being involved in terrorist acts. At the same time, the Taliban are invited to Russian economic forums, while Hizb ut-Tahrir is severely persecuted.
The artist Sasha Skochilenko is once again not getting the food she needs in prison. The defendant in an “anti-war” case has coeliac disease – gluten intolerance, which means she cannot eat many ordinary foods. From April the young woman was in a pre-trial detention centre, and there they were able to provide her with a special diet, but on 1 August she was transferred to a temporary detention centre for familiarisation with the case materials, and again the necessary foods were unavailable. Skochilenko’s lawyer says that she continues to have heart problems, but the Federal Penitentiary Service refuses to allow her to be medically examined.
- Why is this important? The case against Sasha Skochilenko was initiated for seemingly innocuous anti-war activism – the artist replaced the price tags in a Perekrestok shop with flyers with information about the shelling of the Mariupol Drama Theatre and the deaths of civilians. Investigators deemed these to be “fake news”, fabricated for political reasons, and now the young woman faces up to ten years in prison. We have already seen how Moscow municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in prison for discussing the war. Will such custodial sentences be applied even to people with serious health problems – those who simply cannot survive so long in the penitentiary system?
The prosecutor’s office is demanding the liquidation of the Trade Union of Journalists. In July the Moscow prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit against the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers – an interregional organisation that defends the rights of media workers. We discuss why this is necessary for the authorities, why they want to liquidate the Trade Union of Journalists rather than declaring it a “foreign agent”, and what discreditation of the army and the war in Ukraine have to do with it. Read the article on our site, Yandex.zen or Medium.
Every day we take phone calls on our hotline and publish the latest news, articles about politically motivated prosecutions in Russia, guidelines for the general public, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers work on criminal prosecutions and prepare applications to the European Court of Human Rights, while our IT team works to make our online services more accessible and easier to use.
Translated by Anna Bowles