A criminal investigation found that Karim Yamadayev of Naberezhnye Chelny, in a staged video, insulted public officials and incited terrorism
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in a decision based on international criteria, has designated Karim Yamadayev, an activist from Naberezhnye Chelny, a political prisoner. In our assessment, he is being arbitrarily and unlawfully prosecuted solely in connection with his exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The purpose of the repressive measures is to stop his criticism of the authorities and to intimidate civil society. We demand the immediate cessation of the criminal prosecution of Karim Yamadayev and his release from custody.
Who is Karim Yamadayev?
Karim Yamadayev, 39, is a resident of Naberezhnye Chelny and is known as a local activist of the Perpetual Protest movement.
In January 2019 he was jailed for eight days for his installation, ‘A Memorial to Victims of Political Repression.’ It consisted of two mannequins, one bearing the name and photograph of Vladimir Putin, the other that of Anna Pavlikova. At the feet of the mannequins lay three plastic heads with portraits of the dead Sergei Magnitsky, Anna Politkovskaya and Yury Shchekochikhin.
In March 2019 the activist was jailed for 28 days for an installation with a ‘tombstone for Vladimir Putin’ that was put on display outside the Investigative Committee building in Naberezhnye Chelny. The police considered the action an unauthorised picket. Karim Yamadayev filed applications with the European Court of Human Rights with regard to both cases.
The charges against Karim Yamadayev
In late December 2019, the activist published a video on YouTube entitled ‘Judge Gramm (1st episode)’ showing a mock trial of Vladimir Putin, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov and the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin (their roles were played by people with black bags on their heads and nameplates on their chests). The video began with a warning that the authors did not want to promote violence or incite hatred and that any correspondence with real people was coincidental.
Yamadayev himself plays the role of the judge who sentences Peskov and Sechin to death. Behind the scenes, the sentence is carried out. Putin is not sentenced in the video.
The activist intended the video to be a pilot episode for an online series ‘Judge Gramm’ (the second episode was never released). By the end of January 2020 the video had been viewed 92,500 times on YouTube.
On 31 December 2019 criminal proceedings were initiated against the activist for inciting terrorism (Article 205.5, Part 2, of the Criminal Code) and insulting public officials (Article 319 of the Criminal Code). He faces up to seven years in prison on the charges.
According to the prosecution, the video advocates terrorism and insults public officials, namely President Vladimir Putin and his press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Karim Yamadayev has pleaded not guilty and asserts that the video was made solely to monetise his YouTube channel and was not intended to insult anyone or to incite illegal actions. This is stated in a disclaimer displayed at the beginning of the episode.
On 11 January 2020 the activist was remanded in custody. He is currently held in a pre-trial detention centre in Samara where his criminal case is being tried at the Central District Military Court.
Why Memorial considers Yamadayev a political prisoner
Memorial Human Rights Centre has examined the charges against Karim Yamadayev and concluded that his prosecution, on both counts, is unfounded and politically motivated.
The main evidence for the prosecution is a psychological and linguistic forensic assessment. The assessment says nothing about the charges of justifying terrorism, because the experts were not asked about this. The question asked of them by the investigators was whether the video contained ‘justification of the ideology of violence and/or destructive actions,’ and the experts responded in the affirmative.
Memorial considers that, although imitation of the death penalty could be evaluated as justification of an ideology of violence, it has nothing to do with terrorism. On the contrary, the video shows pseudo-legal judicial procedures conducted with regard to public officials for alleged crimes and portrays a court, i.e. a body empowered to act in the name of the state. This is a clear contradiction of the notion of terrorism as set out in the Federal Law ‘On Combating Terrorism.’
Insulting public officials, with which Yamadayev is charged, according to the expert assessment is to be found in the fact that Putin and Peskov are accused of crimes. We are convinced that claiming the actual actions of the individuals in question are criminal in nature cannot be classified as the crime of insulting public officials. It is the expression of the activist’s opinion.
In addition to the experts’ assessment, the prosecution is based on the testimony of witnesses whose views can be summarised as follows: the video is directed ‘against the political authorities of the country,’ something that ‘must not be done in that way’ and, in general, they did not like the video because it expresses a disrespectful attitude to the president.
In this testimony we find the true reason for the prosecution of Yamadayev: his public expression of a negative opinion about the current authorities. We consider that Yamadayev was remanded in custody solely for his political convictions and his peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The investigation and prosecution have violated Yamadayev’s rights to freedom of thought, speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 29 of the Russian Constitution.
The unsubstantiated nature of the criminal prosecution of Yamadayev, and the custodial measure imposed on him disproportionate to the charges laid against him, indicate that the purpose of this criminal case is not the protection of human and civil rights and freedoms, public order and public safety. Its purpose is to stop Yamadayev’s lawful public activity and to intimidate others who may wish to publicly express negative attitudes regarding the actions of the authorities.
For more information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre, see our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.