‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Father Ioann, a priest remanded in custody on charges of making anti-war remarks, is a political prisoner

27 July 2022

Father Ioann is being held in a remand prison in St. Petersburg on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the army.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Father Ioann (secular name Dmitry Kurmoyarov) a political prisoner. He is being prosecuted for criticising the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Father Ioan’s prosecution violates the right to freedom of expression and is intended to silence within Russia the voices of all those who oppose the war against Ukraine.

We demand the immediate release of Father Ioann from custody and the termination of all criminal prosecutions brought under the unconstitutional Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Who is Father Ioann?

Father Ioann lives in St. Petersburg. Several years ago he came to live in Russia from Ukraine where he was being prosecuted under administrative law for publicly displaying a St. George Ribbon.

In Russia, Father Ioann received a Russian passport, as well as a position as assistant professor of church theology at the Novosibirsk Seminary. As a doctor of theology, Father Ioann spoke at academic theological conferences and published a number of articles on the portal Pravoslavie.ru and the website of the Union of Orthodox Journalists.

In the summer of 2020, for criticism of the main church of the Russian Ministry of Defence, Kurmoyarov was banned from conducting ministry for two months and removed from his position as associate professor in the department of church theology at Novosibirsk Seminary.

On 1 April 2022, for public criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he was deprived of the rank of monk-priest by decision of the Novosibirsk diocese and a decree of Patriarch Kirill. Kurmoyarov transferred from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, an alternative to the Russian Orthodox Church.

What are the charges against him?

On 7 June 2022 it became known a criminal case had been brought against Father Ioann for spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army motivated by hate (Article 207.3, Part 2 [e], of the Russian Criminal Code). On the same day, law enforcement officers searched Father Ioann’s home.

The criminal case was initiated because of a video, ‘Who will be in hell and who will be in heaven?’, which Father Ioann published in March. In the video, Father Ioann criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine would go to hell, not heaven.

On 8 June, Father Ioann was remanded in custody at a court hearing held without his lawyer.

Why do we consider Father Ioann a political prisoner?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalising dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law. It is a form of censorship.

Article 207.3 criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces and the activities of Russian state bodies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it is not always possible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. Still less is it possible to establish whether the person who disseminated a given piece of information knew it was false. Taken together, these deficiencies determine the unconstitutional nature of Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code – after the beginning of large-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine – allow us to assert that this article was specifically intended as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities.This relates in full to the prosecution of Father Ioann.

More information about the case of Father Ioann and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project is available on our Telegram channel.

A full list of political prisoners in Russia can be read on our temporary website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions. 

How can you help?

You can write a letter to Father Ioann at the following address:

In Russian: 196655, г. Санкт-Петербург, г. Колпино, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по СПб и ЛО, Курмоярову Дмитрию Валерьевичу 1968 г.р. 

In English: Dmitry Valerievich Kurmoyarov (born 1968), Remand Prison No. 1 of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, St. Petersburg, 196655, Russia. 

Letters can also be sent to him via the websites FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter or Rosuznik.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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