Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has recognised Konstantin Kotov as a political prisoner. We demand Kotov’s immediate release and that all charges against him, and all others charged under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, be dropped.
- On the evening of 12 August 2019 civic activist Konstantin Kotov was detained not far from his home and taken to the Moscow headquarters of the Investigative Committee. Kotov was charged with an offence under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Repeated violation of the regulations for organising a public assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket’), and his apartment was searched at night without a court order.
- On 14 August 2019 Judge Elena Abramova, sitting in Presnensky district court in Moscow, remanded Kotov in custody until 12 October 2019. This was the first time a person charged under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code was remanded in custody. The ruling was made despite the fact that seven members of Moscow municipal assemblies, the politician Grigory Yavlinsky, the writers Liudmila Ulitskaya and Viktor Shenderovich, the film director Oleg Dorman and the journalist Viktoriya Ivleyeva all vouched for Kotov. Previously, measures of pre-trial restraint applied against persons charged under this Article had never included deprivation of liberty. In the cases of Ildar Dadin and Vyacheslav Yegorov the suspects had been placed under house arrest.
- At 02:53 on 15 August 2019 Kotov’s lawyer, Maria Eismont, reported on her Facebook page that the case investigator had informed her the investigation was completed and the case sent to court. The unprecedentedly short preliminary investigation in this case therefore took less than 50 hours. Moreover, the next day Judge Abramova restricted the time Kotov and his lawyer could have to study the materials in the criminal case, setting a time limit of 12:00 on 19 August 2019. In other words, Judge Abramova allotted 72 hours for examination of the four volumes of the criminal case, of which 48 hours fell on a weekend, thereby still further restricting Kotov’s right to a legal defence.
- Kotov has been charged with taking part in three protests in support of political prisoners, calling in a Facebook post for people to join a protest on Trubnaya Square on 19 July 2019 against opposition candidates being prevented from standing in upcoming elections to Moscow city assembly, and taking part in a protest walk on 10 August 2019 after the rally that day against political repression and for the registration of independent candidates in the Moscow city assembly elections.
- The very fact of prosecution under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which is unconstitutional and in violation of legal norms, gives grounds to conclude the prosecution of Konstantin Kotov is unlawful and politically motivated. Article 212.1, like Article 20.2, Section 8, of the Russian Administrative Law Code (‘Repeated violation by a participant in a public event of the established regulations for holding a picket’), contradicts fundamental legal principles and is intended to restrict freedom of assembly and force government critics to cease their public activity.
- Serious criticism of Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code has already been voiced on previous occasions by, in particular, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Amnesty International, the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation.
- That Kotov’s prosecution was politically motivated is shown by the fact that the peaceful protests in which he took part were against the policies of the current authorities, and his prosecution took place against the background of a sharp increase in repressive measures against participants in peaceful demonstrations and rallies. The little time in which the preliminary investigation was conducted (and during which Kotov was not given a single minute of confidential communication with his lawyer) made a mockery of due process. Moreover, it made clear the authorities intend to use the Kotov case as a precedent to put pressure on the organisers of, and participants in, Moscow protests against the refusal to register independent candidates in the upcoming assembly elections.
For more information about this case, see here.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.
Electronic letters can be sent to Konstantin Kotov free of charge via the Rosuznik website.
See also the Internet petition for the abolition of Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code here.
PayPal — an e-wallet for giving help to all Russian political prisoners [email protected]