3 December 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.
And no letter from you, again.
Well, there we are.
We met in a strange way and we will part in a strange way!
Your husband (for now)A letter from Aleksei Navalny to his wife. Photo: Yulia Navalnaya’s Instagram
Hello! The new law on “foreign agents” has come into force, Aleksei Navalny is not receiving letters from his wife, and a Crimean Tatar activist has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.
A unified register of “foreign agents” has appeared on the website of the Ministry of Justice. It includes people, organisations and media outlets who were previously entered on four different lists. So far, the new list has 493 entries. People’s dates of birth and links to their websites, social media accounts, and other internet resources of organisations, have also been added to the register. In addition, people and projects that were earlier excluded from the list of “foreign agents” have been put on the register; in such cases, officials have indicated the date of exclusion.
- Why is this important? The authorities are using the legislation on “foreign agents” to persecute opposition figures, journalists and other people who disagree with them. Human rights activists suggest that the electoral commission will vet candidates before the next election with the help of the new register. The ban on their running appeared only in December of this year – previously, “foreign agents” were allowed. Now it will be even easier to prevent opposition candidates from running, because even a transfer of a couple of thousand roubles or an interview with a foreign media outlet can get you labelled a “foreign agent”.
Aleksei Navalny is not receiving letters from his wife in the penal colony. The prisoner himself told Yulia Navalnaya about this. He wrote, “Ye-e-e-s, Yulia Borisovna. No letter from you, again. Well, there we are. We met in a strange way and will part in a strange way! Your husband (for now).” The opposition politician jokingly asked her to find the address of a newspaper “where convicts can write in to find a wife via correspondence.” Yulia herself described the situation as follows: “At least I have the opportunity to tell him through lawyers that they just don’t give him my letters, and to laugh at it. Imagine how they mock other prisoners who don’t even have lawyers.”
- Why do I need to know this? Refusing to pass on letters is a common way of putting pressure on political prisoners. In this way, the authorities seek to isolate them from information. A letter is one of the few means of supporting someone who is in prison or a pre-trial detention centre. In places of detention, every day looks like the one before, so communication with the outside world is extremely valuable. We have published a detailed guide about why it is important to write to political prisoners, and how to do it properly.
Crimean Tatar activist Marlen Mustafaev has been sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment. Mustafaev was found guilty of organising the activities of a terrorist organisation and preparation for the violent overthrow of the government. According to the prosecution, Mustafaev held meetings of the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia. The first three and a half years of his sentence will be spent in a prison, and the remainder in a strict-regime penal colony. Prior to his arrest, the activist used to go to the trials of political prisoners and help their families.
- Why is this important? Prosecutions in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case regularly carry severe sentences. On the peninsula, accusations of membership of this party are used to persecute local opposition journalists and Crimean Tatar activists, many of whom openly oppose the Russian authorities. Besides, a number of experts believe that Hizb ut-Tahrir is wrongly labelled a terrorist organisation, because its members do not advocate violence and have not planned terrorist acts.
The new law on “foreign agents” has come into force. Even more restrictions will be laid on those designated as such from the first of December. Also, officials will maintain a list of people who are “affiliated with foreign agents”, and the liability for failing to provide reports will become stricter. We have broken down the innovations in detail. You can read the piece on the website of our Inoteka project, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
“An arthouse gallery you don’t want to visit.” In January, Aleksander Strukov, a former photographer for Aleksei Navalny’s headquarters, is being prosecuted on charges of incitement to hatred and justifying terrorism over comments in a Telegram chat. He has been in Moscow’s Kapotnya pre-trial detention centre for almost a year. You can read his story on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles