30 December 2022
Aleksandr Tarapon has been sentenced to two and a half years in a strict regime penal colony on charges of distributing ‘fake news’ about the Russian army
Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial
The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Aleksandr Tarapon from Alushta in Crimea a political prisoner. Tarapon was prosecuted for sticking up leaflets against a man who took part in military action in Ukraine on the side of Russia. Tarapon’s criminal prosecution violates his right to freedom of expression and is intended to silence the voices of those in Russia opposed to the war against Ukraine.
We demand the immediate release of Aleksandr Tarapon and of all those prosecuted under the unlawful, politically motivated Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.
What were the charges against Aleksandr Tarapon?
Aleksandr Tarapon lives in Alushta, Crimea. He learned about the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine from his sister, who lives near Kyiv. According to Tarapon, he was shocked by the discrepancy between what his sister told him and the information spread by the Russian press.
Tarapon learned that a distant relative was taking part in the war on the side of Russia. After that, Tarapon put up leaflets on the house of this relative with the text ‘Var criminal and child killer Yury Orlenko liveZ here’ [‘Zдесь живёт Vоенный преступник убийца детей Орленко Ю’].
On 30 March 2022, law enforcement officers searched Tarapon’s house and detained him.
On 21 October 2022, Alushta city court found Aleksandr Tarapon guilty of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two and a half years in a strict regime penal colony.
Why do we consider Tarapon a political prisoner?
Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, that criminalises the dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army, is in conflict with the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.
In particular, according to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Similar norms are enshrined in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code do not serve any of the above purposes and are a form of censorship.
Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code can be used to criminalise statements about the use of the Russian armed forces and the activities of Russian government agencies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it is often impossible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. Still less is it possible to establish whether or not the person disseminating the information believed it to be false. These defects mean that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code fails to meet the requirements of the rule of law.
The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code, after the start of Russia’s large-scale military aggression against Ukraine, allow us to argue that it has been specifically created as a tool to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities.
In addition, in the Tarapon case, the court ignored a forensic analysis which concluded that the text of the leaflet did not refer to the Russian army as a whole. In our opinion, the only permissible charge in the given case would have been the much less serious charge of libel. However, the court did not consider whether the person mentioned in the leaflet was in fact a military serviceman who had taken part in hostilities and committed war crimes.
A more detailed description of the case and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project are available on our Telegram publishing platform.
An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our website.
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 electronic letters to political prisoners in Crimea via the website of Crimean Solidarity.
You can send a letter to Aleksandr Tarapon at the following address:
In Russian: 367012, Республика Дагестан, г. Махачкала ул. Левина 45, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Республике Дагестан, Тарапону Александру Александровичу, 1990 г.р.
In English: Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Tarapon (born 1990), Remand Prison No. 1, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for the Republic of Dagestan, 45 Levin Street, Makhachkala, Republic of Dagestan, 367012, Russia.
You can also send an electronic letter via the FSIN-Letter system.
You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. For more information, see our website.
Translated by Rights in Russia