29 October 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! For the first time in Russia a criminal prosecution under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘fake news’ about the army has been dropped, a defendant in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case has been given 18 years in a strict regime penal colony, and an anti-fascist from the Urals has reported torture in detention.
For the first time in Russia a criminal prosecution under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘fake news’ about the army has been dropped. It had been brought against a resident of Nizhny Novgorod who posted a link to a video about events in Bucha. The reason for dropping the investigation was that the post had appeared ‘before the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation issued an official denial regarding the events that took place in Irpin and Bucha in the Republic of Ukraine’. The defence counsel was able to prove that the defendant had no intention of spreading false information about the Russian armed forces.
- Why is this important? According to OVD-Info’s data, over a hundred criminal cases have been brought in the country under the article on ‘fake news’ about the Russian army. Russians are being investigated for social media posts, artistic actions and even telephone conversations. Under this article people can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. The closure of this case therefore provides at least a little hope: perhaps we shouldn’t give up as you can still get justice in court.
A defendant in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case from Kazan has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Farit Sharifullin was sentenced to 18 years in a strict regime penal colony. He was found guilty of organising the activities of a terrorist organisation, incitement to terrorist activities and forgery of documents. According to law enforcement officers, for five years Sharifullin organised the activities in Kazan of the radical Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia.
- Why do I need to know this? Many members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are prosecuted simply because they met in apartments, read religious texts and recruited new members. However, their sentences are often very harsh – more than 180 defendants have received over ten years in jail. In the opinion of the Sova Information and Analysis Centre, the party has been unjustly labelled as terrorist: as yet its supporters have not been found guilty of actual conspiratorial activity, and prosecutions on charges of preparing a violent takeover of power when charges are brought merely on the basis of party activity are also considered unlawful by the Sova Centre.
A resident of Rostov-on-Don has been sentenced to compulsory outpatient psychiatric treatment for graffiti reading ‘Putin is a thief!’ Mikhail Selitsky was also sentenced to 18 months of restricted liberty under the article on vandalism for spraying ‘political graffiti’ on the walls of residential buildings. According to the conclusion of a forensic psychiatric examination, the man was allegedly not fully aware of his actions. The Rostov man’s lawyer argues that this was an act made by Selitsky in full possession of his faculties, and was only an administrative offence, not a criminal one.
- Why is this important? Compulsory psychiatric treatment is increasingly being imposed on those involved in political cases. A pensioner prosecuted for his posts on social networks, a shaman who wanted to ‘cast out Putin’ and a protector of a public garden in Ekaterinburg have all been sent to psychiatric hospitals. A measure aimed at helping those convicted of crimes is becoming an instrument of violence against those who disagree with the authorities. Often the conditions in psychiatric clinics are almost worse than those in the penal colonies: patients are forbidden to move around the building and grounds without supervision, their personal belongings are taken away and they are forced to take unknown drugs.
A defendant in the case against anti-fascists in the Urals has spoken out about torture. Anti-fascist Denis Aidin, who was placed in pre-trial detention on charges of involvement in a terrorist group and manufacture of explosives, said he had been subjected to violence and threats on the day he was detained. At the end of August, the young man and a friend were on their way to a deserted wasteland to test an explosive mixture they had made themselves, out of curiosity; that evening he was taken to a police station. Police officers beat him in the stomach and on the back of his head, put a bag over his head, and forced him to undress and threatened him with sexual violence using a truncheon and the leg of a stool. The torture lasted about half an hour, and eventually Aidin agreed to tell them what they demanded he say – that he was going to blow up trains and official buildings.
- Why do I need to know this? Denis Aidin is not the first anti-fascist from the Urals who has spoken out about torture. Other people involved in the case have reported psychological pressure, electric shocks and beatings. It seems that the violence is used in order to make detainees incriminate themselves and their friends: some of them retracted the confessions they had made in the first days after the arrests. It is easier for the security forces to fabricate a criminal case against those the authorities consider undesirable by using violence – a person might confess to something they did not do, just to stop the torture.
‘Saint Javelin’. On 5 October, Moscow police took Varya, a fifth grader, to a police station. Her mother Elena was also taken there with her. The reason for the detention was a letter from the headmistress, who complained about an avatar with a Ukrainian flag on the girl’s social network profile, as well as a caption ‘Conversations about important things’. Read her mother’s account of the incident on our site, Yandex.zen and Medium.
And finally, OVD-Info has received a Freedom of Expression award from the international organisation Index on Censorship! The project was singled out in the ‘campaigns’ category for its ‘tireless and risky work in supporting those detained at anti-war rallies and raising awareness of protests’.
Translated by Anna Bowles