17 June 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! An activist who claimed he was tortured has died in a police detention centre, in the Hizb Ut-Tahrir case in Crimea the harshest of sentences has been handed down, and the former head of Navalny’s Ufa headquarters has been sent to a penal colony for seven and a half years.
40-year-old activist Anatoly Berezikov has died in a police detention centre in Rostov-on-Don. His lawyer suspects that the man may have died under torture: on the previous say, the woman had seen the marks of electric shock on his body. Previously Bereznikov had complained of being threatened and told that he would be killed, and reported suffering violence that broke his ribs during his arrest. Staff of the special detention centre in turn claim the activist committed suicide. The man’s home was searched on 10 May, after which he was jailed on charges of non-cooperation with the police. Then the activist was jailed twice more, without being allowed to leave the detention centre: on 21 May and 31 May, for ‘disorderly conduct.’
- Why is this important? The Russian security forces are riddled with senseless brutality and bitterness which now, in the second year of the war, has reached unprecedented levels. We regularly report on torture in police stations, pre-trial detention centres and penal colonies. The real reason for the prosecution of Anatoly Bereznikov was probably the leaflets he put up for the Ukrainian project ‘I want to live’, which accepts appeals from Russian servicemen who want to surrender. The human rights group First Department stated that the authorities had wanted to charge the man with treason. First Department suggested this was why Bereznikov was tortured: to force him to refuse a lawyer, break him and force him to give the necessary testimony after a criminal case was launched. All this ended in his death – for which it’s likely that nobody will be punished.
A Crimean Tatar activist has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in the Hizb Ut-Tahrir case. Ansar Osmanov was found guilty of organising the activities of a terrorist organisation and preparing for the violent seizure of power. He will spend the first four years in prison and the remainder of his term in a strict regime penal colony. The man has five children, he is 47 years old, and until his arrest he worked as a woodcarver. Osmanov was also a member of the Crimean Solidarity movement and regularly attended trials in politically motivated cases in the republic.
- Why do I need to know this? According to data from Crimean Solidarity, this is the first sentence of such length for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the region. It’s also unusual in that the prosecutor requested a shorter jail term – 18 years. The repression is getting significantly harsher: authorities have previously suppressed the community solidarity and civil society activism of Crimean Tatars with the help of criminal prosecutions, but now the punishments have become harsher. At the same time, the charges brought against supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir are absurd: they are sent to prison colonies simply for holding meetings in apartments, reading religious literature and recruiting new participants.
A bill banning gender transition has passed its first reading in the State Duma. All 365 MPs voted in favour of the amendments. If the bill is passed, changes to gender markers in documents will become impossible, along with “medical interventions” related to gender transition. Activists pointed out that not only surgery but also gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy will fall under this definition.
- Why is this important? We regard this new bill as part of the political persecution of the LGBTQ community. The consequences could be very serious: a ban on gender transition will likely lead to an increase in suicides, as even the Russian Ministry of Health has stated. Any efforts to oppose the passage of the amendments are quickly thwarted: for example, in St Petersburg a picketer who went out with a poster opposing the bill was arrested. He was charged with “LGBT propaganda” – simply for calling on the state to let people be themselves.
The former head of Navalny’s Ufa headquarters, Lilia Chanysheva has been sentenced to seven and a half years in a penal colony. The woman was found guilty in a case brought against supporters of Aleksei Navalny for association with an extremist group. A second defendant in the case, Rustem Muyukov, was sentenced to two and a half years in a penal colony. Chanysheva has been in custody since November 2021. In August 2022 it emerged that for several months she had been forbidden to make phone calls to her husband and elderly parents from the pre-trial detention centre, or to meet with them.
- Why do I need to know this? In June 2021, Navalny’s organisations were declared extremist, and at the end of September prosecutions began of the politician and his associates; several more cases were later added. The trial of Navalny himself will start on 19 June; he is accused of offences under seven articles of the Russian Criminal Code. This is despite the fact that Navalny’s staff had ceased their work even before that, in April. Lilia Chanysheva was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment because she worked at his headquarters when it was still operating legally. Why the authorities concerned themselves with her in particular is not known: possibly because of the activist’s investigations into regional officials.
Five political prisoners have been awarded the Boris Nemtsov Prize. It’s awarded to people who have shown exceptional bravery in the fight for freedom and democracy. Three of the awardees are clients of OVD-Info. We have written more about all of them here.
“You can even kill us, you can even drive over us.” In the Kuban village of Poltavskaya there is a huge landfill site, where rubbish from all over the region is dumped. Local residents have opposed the dump for two years, but all they get is fines and jail terms for speaking out against it. You can read a joint report by OVD-Info and Novaya Vkladka on our website and Yandex.Zen.
People detained for two days because of rallies in support of Navalny have been driven backwards and forwards from the police station to the court for two days. Five hours in a truck without access to a toilet, a cold cell, and prevention of contact with their relatives and lawyers were just a part of what the detainees faced on 4 June in Moscow. You can read about what happened on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
“I’m sure this monstrous lawlessness won’t last for long.” At the end of May, Bakhrom Khamraev, a member of Memorial, was sentenced to 14 years in jail. The human rights activist was convicted of participation in the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir and justification of its “terrorist activities”. The case of justification of terrorism was brought against him because of his Facebook posts in support of the party. The court considered defence of the rights of Muslims persecuted in Russia to be “participation” in “terrorist activities”. You can read an account of his persecution on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles