‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Lev Lerman is a political prisoner 

20 November 2023

Lev Lerman, a pensioner from Nizhny Novgorod, was sentenced to four years in a low security penal colony on charges of possession of 10 firearm cartridges.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’, in accordance with international standards, considers Lev Lerman a political prisoner. His criminal prosecution was politically motivated and violated his right to fair trial. 

We demand the immediate release of Lev Lerman and that his criminal conviction be quashed. 

Who is Lev Lerman and what were the charges that led to his conviction?

Lev Lerman is an opposition activist from Nizhny Novgorod. After the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he actively expressed disagreement with the policy of the Russian authorities on his Facebook page and called for people to take part in anti-war protests. 

On 3 March 2022, Lerman’s home was searched and he was taken away for questioning as a witness in a criminal case. He was then jailed for nine days for the administrative law offence of holding a public event without official permission. In the meantime, at least two more searches were conducted of his home, during the last of which 10 firearm cartridges were allegedly found in the basement of the apartment building where the Lermans live. A criminal case was opened against Lev Lerman for illegal possession of ammunition (Article 222, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and he was transferred from a detention centre for administrative offenders to a remand prison. 

On 10 October 2022 Kanavinsky district court in Nizhny Novgorod sentenced Lerman to four years in a low security penal colony. 

Why do we consider Lev Lerman a political prisoner?

There are clear signs that the evidence against Lerman for possessing ammunition was fabricated. In particular, the cartridges were in perfect condition without the slightest trace of rust, while the basement where they were allegedly found was very damp. The witnesses at the search (and, later, the witnesses for the prosecution) were neighbours with whom Lerman had bad relations. He himself said that he saw the cartridges for the first time in the courtroom, and while a saliva analysis allegedly matched biological material found on the cartridges, no such sample had been taken from Lerman as a suspect. The Investigative Committee also failed to explain why the pensioner kept the cartridges if he had no weapon.

The convincing arguments of the defence, as well as the chaotic actions of the police before the indictment – the search, the fact that Lerman was given the status of a witness, the jail term under administrative law and then the criminal charges – indicate that a decision had been made in advance to have Lerman remanded in custody, and the reasons were literally made up on the go. The punishment imposed on Lerman is wholly disproportionate to the public danger of the imputed act.

We believe the real reasons for the prosecution of Lev Lerman were his opposition activity and anti-war statements. The decision to remand him in custody and the initiation of criminal proceedings against him took place in early March 2022 at a time before the articles enabling prosecution of those speaking out against the war had been added to the Russian Criminal Code. It is therefore probable that the cartridges were planted in the activist’s apartment building so he could be charged with illegal possession of ammunition. 

Lev Lerman was prosecuted to punish him for statements opposing Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as to intimidate the general public and prevent the expression of disagreement with the authorities.

A detailed description of the case of Lev Lerman and the position of the Human Rights Project are set out on our website.

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

How can you help?

You can write a letter to Lev Lerman at the following address:

In Russian: 606707, Нижегородская область, Краснобаковский район, п. Пруды, ул. Центральная, д. 22, ФКУ КП-15 ГУФСИН России по Нижегородской области, Лерману Льву Исааковичу 1956 г. р. 

English Translation: Lev Isaakovich Lerman (born 1956), Low Security Penal Colony No. 15, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for Nizhny Novgorod region,  22 Tsentralnaya Street, Prudy Settlement, Krasnobakovsky district, Nizhny Novgorod region, 606707, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter via the Zonatelekom service.

Please note that letters in languages other than Russian are highly unlikely to reach the recipient.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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