14 May 2020
By Aleksei Sokolov
13 May is a date I’ll remember my whole life.
On 13 May 2009, I was brazenly arrested by people in plain clothes, thrown to the ground and dragged into a car, and all in front of my three-year-old daughter, who had already been pulled away from me.
On 13 May 2010, a court sentenced me to 5 years in prison on the basis of evidence given by criminals. An appeal reduced this to three years, after which I was sent to a prison hospital for drug addicts and alcoholics in Krasnoyarsk region.
All this happened because, after being elected as a member of the Public Oversight Commission, I began actively visiting prison colonies and recording numerous human rights violations.
That said, I was only able to use my mandate as a member of the Public Oversight Commission for three months because, after that, I was put in prison. I was warned that I’d be sent to prison if I didn’t stop my visits and inspections, but I didn’t listen and I don’t even regret it…
I am very grateful to my ex-wife, who hurried to defend me from the outset, and later organised all my legal and information protection.
I am grateful to Roman Kachanov, who, from the very first days of my arrest, was always close by (at the temporary detention facility, the pre-trial detention centre and the prison hospital) and actively defended me.
I am grateful to Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev, who built a wave of public support for me at the federal level, and also to Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva and Valentin Mikhailovich Gefter, who protested on my behalf in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office. A photograph of their protest was given to me at the pre-trial detention centre and it had a strong influence on my state of mind.
I am grateful to Amnesty International for all the help and support that different branches of Amnesty around the world have provided me during my harassment by the Russian authorities.
I am extremely grateful to all the national and international human rights organisations and all the people involved in my fate. There are just too many to name in one post.
Without your help, it would have been extremely difficult for me to cope with the terrible path that the Russian authorities pushed me down for trying to defend human rights by every legal means.
In 2018, the ECtHR upheld my complaint and found that Russia had arrested me illegally and also violated some of my other rights. The complaint was submitted by Valery Shukhardin, who also defended me at the national level.
The world is not without good people and I know that for sure!!!
Translated by Nicky Brown