We believe the two bloggers are being prosecuted because of their anti-corruption investigations
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international standards, considers bloggers Aleksandr Dorogov and Yan Katelevsky, both from the town of Ramenskoye near Moscow, political prisoners. We believe the decision to remand them in custody is politically motivated and is related to the non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and dissemination of information. Remanding the two bloggers in custody is clearly disproportionate to the public danger of the acts imputed to them.
Memorial demands that Dorogov and Katelevsky be released immediately and that their right to a fair trial be observed.
For at least five years before their arrest, Aleksandr Dorogov and Yan Katelevsky, bloggers from Ramenskoye near Moscow, had been investigating police corruption and abuses.
They published their work on the website of Rosderzhava, an officially registered media outlet, as well as on the YouTube channels Dvizhenie and All Rus News and on their own personal channels. Their video archive consists of more than 500 videos. Katelevsky’s channel has about 300,000 subscribers.
Katelevsky first became widely known when he was arrested for filming at the Ramenskoye police department. His confiscated phone, which was still in recording mode, captured the judge's conversations with police officers and proved the charges had been fabricated. The scandal was hushed up but the Russian Interior Minister Kolokoltsev was forced to sign an order lifting the ban on filming in police stations.
The bloggers’ last publication was an investigation into a suspected protection racket by Moscow region police against a funeral business in Ramenskoye district. After this publication, a number of criminal cases were simultaneously filed against Dorogov and Katelevsky.
The most serious charge of ‘extortion by an organized group on a large scale’ (Article 163, Part 3, Paragraph b, of the Russian Criminal Code) is related to the close attention paid by the bloggers to the work of the local traffic police.
The investigators allege that Katelevsky and Dorogov extorted money from one of the traffic police officers under the threat of defamatory publications about him. In previously published stories the bloggers had related that this officer owned a property that was far beyond his means, given his salary, and moreover had been built in violation of building regulations. The bloggers’ findings were partially confirmed by the results of an internal investigation by the traffic police department. The intermediaries in the extortion and members of the ‘organized group’ were allegedly two major local businessmen, one of whom is a United Russia deputy and a member of the public commission of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Both businessmen, unlike Dorogov and Katelevsky, remain at liberty.
In addition, the bloggers are accused of damaging a car belonging to someone who accidentally broke traffic regulations (Article 167, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code), insulting a public official (Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code), hooliganism (Article 213, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and one further incident of extortion against the owner of a network of shops (Article 163, Part 2, Paragraph a, of the Russian Criminal Code).
At least five criminal cases were opened against Katelevsky and Dorogov in the course of the past year. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Ramenskoye Police Department itself has given evidence of the political nature of the prosecution, emphasizing in its report on Dorogov for the investigative authorities: ‘According to information from open sources, Mr Dorogov speaks negatively about the current government and the President of the Russian Federation. He is engaged in provocative activities, including discrediting the authorities.’
The investigators’ request to the court to remand the bloggers in custody noted the following: ‘Katelevsky, using YouTube, has deliberately posted stories about law enforcement officers, as well as public authorities, thereby discrediting them.’ Moreover, at that time the two had been charged only with damaging a car.
The bloggers did indeed actively make their views publicly known. They exposed corruption and criticized officials. They openly supported Aleksei Navalny.
The intricate manipulations of the investigative authorities, who initiated criminal proceedings in relation to a range of events, indicate their intention to deprive the bloggers of their freedom and place them in custody.
There are indications that all the charges brought against the two bloggers have been subject to fabrication. There have also been a great number of procedural violations. The charges against Katelevsky and Dorogov are clearly disproportionate to any possible offence they may have committed and in our view, the length of time they have been in custody (more than a year and a half) is disproportionate to the supposed danger to society - even in terms of the excessive charges that have been brought.
A detailed analysis of all the charges and our arguments are set out in full on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
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