2 November 2022
Askhabali Alibekov, a blogger remanded in custody on charges of repeatedly ‘discrediting’ the Russian army, could face three years’ imprisonment if convicted
The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers the Novorossiisk blogger Askhabali Alibekov a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. He is being prosecuted for publishing anti-war video clips on his channel. Alibekov’s criminal prosecution is in gross violation of his rights to freedom of speech and dissemination of information.
We demand the immediate release of Alibekov and the dropping of all criminal charges against him.
Who is Askhabali Alibekov and why is he being prosecuted?
In the recent past Askhabali Alibekov served in the military. As a paratrooper, he took part in combat operations in Chechnya, subsequently serving in various types of military unit before ending his service with the navy in Novorossiisk.
Alibekov became widely known after he posted a video in February 2018 on his Youtube channel, ‘Wild Paratrooper’ (thereafter a nickname he always used), with an appeal to his ‘brother paratroopers’ to boycott the presidential elections in Russia. Furthermore, in his video, Alibekov accused Vladimir Putin of lying about the absence of Russian troops in Ukraine and ‘pitting the Russian army against the fraternal people of Ukraine.’ Shortly after the video was published Alibekov was dismissed from the military and was prosecuted for various administrative-law offences (as a rule, he was charged with ‘petty hooliganism,’ such as swearing or disobeying the lawful demands of police officers). The courts repeatedly sentenced him to terms in jail of 10-12 days.
At the same time, Alibekov did not abandon public activity and continued to publish his appeals, demanding, in particular, Putin’s resignation and the introduction into the constitution of age limits for presidential candidates. In May 2018, Alibekov urged his viewers to participate in protests organised by Aleksei Navalny.
On account of his numerous prosecutions under administrative law, in 2018 a suspended sentence, given to Alibekov in a criminal case that had no connection with his public activities, was changed to a three-year term of imprisonment.
After his release in March 2022, Alibekov began to actively speak out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He held single-person pickets and published anti-war videos, for which he was twice fined under administrative law for ‘discrediting’ the Russian army (Article 20.3.3. of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences).
In early September, criminal proceedings were initiated against the blogger on charges of repeatedly ‘discrediting’ the Russian army (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). Alibekov’s home was searched by riot police in masks and bulletproof vests and he himself was detained.
Initially, Alibekov remained at liberty, however after he refused to wear a bracelet to track his movements, he was remanded in custody.
Why do we consider Alibekov a political prisoner?
The article of the Russian Criminal Code under which Askhabali Alibekov is being prosecuted was adopted on 4 March 2022 in an emergency procedure a week after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The offence set out in this article is formulated in such a way that it fails to comply with the principle of legal certainty essential for any law. The Russian Criminal Code does not anywhere define the notion of ‘discredit’ and citizens cannot know in advance which of their actions may lead to severe criminal punishment.
Moreover, the article actually prohibits the disparaging of government authority and undermining trust in government, its bodies, decisions and actions, thereby directly prohibiting the expression of opinion about, and criticism of, the authorities’ actions.
Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code also makes the commission of the crime dependent on previous conviction under administrative law. Therefore, Article 280.3 in fact provides for repeated punishment for the same act. Moreover, prosecution and the handing down of a judgment under Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code are made dependent on a court decision issued in the course of administrative law proceedings – proceedings that provide for a significantly lower level of guarantees with respect to the rights and freedoms of persons prosecuted than those provided for under criminal law.
Therefore, we consider that Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code is in contradiction with the Russian Constitution and the international obligations of the Russian Federation, as well as the basic principles of law. In our opinion, Article 280.3 does not meet the requirements of the rule of law, was created for the purpose of political repression against the authorities’ critics, and should be repealed. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be terminated.
More information about this case and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project is available on our publishing platform on Telegram.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How can you help?
You can send letters by ordinary mail to the following address:
In Russian: 353905, Краснодарский край, г. Новороссийск, ул. Пархоменко, 33, ФКУ СИЗО-3 УФСИН России по Краснодарскому краю, Алибекову Асхабали Амировичу, 1971 г.р.
In English: Askhabali Amirovich Alibekov (born 1971), Remand Prison No. 3, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Krasnodar Region, 33 Parkhomenko Street, Novorossiisk, Krasnodar region, 353905, Russia.
You can also send electronic mail using FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove