14 January 2023
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! The defendants in a Hizb ut-Tahrir trial have been sentenced to between 13 and 19 years in prison, about 20 opposition activists have been kidnapped by security forces in Chechnya and an environmental movement in Arkhangelsk was closed down after being declared a ‘foreign agent.’
Defendants in a Hizb ut-Tahrir case have received harsh sentences. In Kazan, Ruslan Ilyasov was sentenced to 19 years in prison, Crimean imam Raif Fevziev was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and five residents of the peninsula were sentenced to 13 years. Ilyasov was charged with organising the activities of a terrorist organisation (Article 205.5, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and inducing another person to terrorist activity (Article 205.1, Part 1.1, of the Russian Criminal Code). Crimean residents Servet Gaziyev, Dzhemil Gafarov, Alim Karimov, Seiran Murtaza and Erfan Osmanov were found guilty of participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation (Article 205.5, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and of preparation for the seizure of power (Article 278 in conjunction with Article 30, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). Fevziev was sentenced under the same articles.
- Why is this important? We often talk about the sentences in cases involving the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir in this newsletter. The number of those convicted is growing rapidly, while the sentences handed down are very severe: at least 116 people have received sentences of 10 to 15 years, and 107 have been sentenced to 15 years or more. According to the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis, the party has been incorrectly labelled as a terrorist group. The project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ believes the prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters in Crimea is a tool for suppressing public solidarity and civic activity among local residents.
Security forces have kidnapped about 20 people from the village of Alkhan-Kala in Chechnya. A relative of one of the detainees reported that they were tortured in Grozny for their opposition views. “The security services have a particular grudge against them because of their critical attitude towards the authorities. We are not even sure our brothers are still alive,” he said. The villagers believe the abductions may be connected with accusations of extremism.
- Why do I need to know this? In Chechnya, those who oppose the authorities are dealt with far more brutally than in other parts of the country. Kidnappings and torture are not uncommon there. A person may simply disappear, and their relatives don’t even know where to turn and how to help them. At the same time, the actions of police officers almost always go unpunished, which is why they continue to use such methods of persecution.
A man accused of arson at the Krasnodar FSB building has reported being tortured after his arrest. Igor Paskar stated that police officers kicked him, threatened him with a gun, used electric shocks, and tried to rape him with a dildo. The young man was detained in June 2022 – he threw a Molotov cocktail into the FSB office building in Krasnodar, setting light to the doormat. Then the activist applied yellow and blue paint to his face and waited for the police to show up. Now Paskar is in pre-trial detention, accused of committing an act of terrorism and vandalism motivated by political hatred.
- Why is this important? Russian police often torture detainees, especially after protests or anti-war speeches. In this way, they try to force them to give false testimony, to incriminate their acquaintances, or simply to answer questions if they have refused to do so. Sometimes it seems the police aren’t even pursuing a specific goal, but want to mock the person. Given the state’s tacit support for harsh treatment, there is little hope that cases of police violence will reduce in the near future.
The Arkhangelsk environmental movement ’42’ has announced its closure due to its being declared a ‘foreign agent’. The activists decided it was too risky to continue their work. The decision to close the organisation was also influenced by the latest tightening of the ‘foreign agent’ legislation. The movement had been put on the registry in December. The project existed for almost five years, during which time its members were involved in the implementation of a system of separate waste collection and environmental education, as well as being among the first to protest against the construction of a landfill at Shies in the Arkhangelsk region.
- Why do I need to know this? The ‘foreign agents’ legislation is tightened every year to persecute dissenters. Opposition politicians and journalists are the people most often subject to it, but other organisations that criticise the government, such as environmental organisations, are also on the ‘foreign agent’ list. Environmental activists often confront government officials who only care about their own interests, without thinking about environmental issues. Being declared a ‘foreign agent’ seriously complicates the work of environmentalists, and, as in the case of the ’42’ movement, can lead to the closure of the organisation, which is exactly what the government wants.
“No villains, no justice.” A criminal case against a policewoman is pending in Moscow – Ekaterina Zlobina is accused of falsifying the records of people arrested for opposing the building of the South-Eastern Ring expressway in 2020. We talked to the victims and to two attorneys from OVD-Info who represent them. Read the story on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
And the ECtHR has awarded compensation with regard to applications by 36 defendants from OVD-Info and Memorial! The court found detentions at several rallies in 2018 and 2019 to be violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Translated by Anna Bowles