Over the past year the number of political prisoners in Russia has risen from 362 to 420
Memorial Human Rights Centre has published updated lists of political prisoners. Today, these manifestly incomplete lists contain 420 names. A year ago, they contained 362 names. The actual number of political prisoners in Russia is undoubtedly significantly higher.
How have the numbers changed?
A year ago, in late October 2020, the lists of political prisoners maintained by Memorial Human Rights Centre contained the names of 362 people in total. These included 297 people imprisoned for exercising freedom of religion; the number of all other political prisoners was 65.
Today, there are 420 people in our lists in total: 340 of those named have been imprisoned for exercising freedom of religion or for their religious affiliation (see list) and 80 have been imprisoned on other political grounds (see list). The lists have been growing for many years now.
At the same time, our lists represent only a minimal estimate of the number of political prisoners in Russia. The actual number of political prisoners and others imprisoned on political grounds is undoubtedly significantly higher.
What is happening to those on the religious list?
As before, there has been a particular increase in the number of persons deprived of liberty in connection with their exercise of freedom of religion and religious affiliation. In the past year, only 65 people on this list were released from prison, while 108 people have been added to the list.
Of those newly added to the list, 18 were imprisoned on charges related to Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation designated as terrorist and banned in Russia. As before, a significant number of these — nine — are from Crimea. We believe these charges are used to suppress civic activism and solidarity among the Crimean Tatar people.
Another large group of those added to our lists are Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the past year, 68 adherents of this faith have been added to our lists of political prisoners.
As of today, 35 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to terms in prison and 86 have received suspended sentences. A further 69 Jehovah’s Witnesses on trial are currently under house arrest or in custody.
We note separately the inclusion in our lists, after a thorough examination of their cases, of nine of the eleven people convicted in the St Petersburg metro terrorist attack: Sodik Ortikov, Shokhista Karimova, Mukhamadyusup Ermatov, Ibragimzhon Ermatov, Makhamadyusuf Mirzaalimov, Azamzhon Makhmudov, Saifilla Khakimov, Bakhrom Ergashev and Dilmurod Muidinov. We believe these individuals had nothing to do with the attack but were found guilty because of their religious affiliation, as was the Muslim Georgy Guyev, convicted on false charges of financing terrorism.
What has changed on the main list?
Despite the fact that 30 political prisoners have been removed from the list this year following their release, the list has still grown significantly. During this time, the total number of political prisoners increased by 45.
Many individuals included in our lists over the past year have been removed during the same period, for example all the defendants in the Moscow Sanitary Case and a large number of refugees from Belarus detained in Russia.
Over the past year, imprisonment has become a much more frequently used instrument in the arsenal of the authorities against their political opponents. As a result, those who became political prisoners have included Aleksei Navalny, Andrei Pivovarov, and Andrei Borovikov. Aleksandr Gabyshev was again deprived of his liberty.
The authorities’ response to the mass street protests of January and February has been an unprecedented wave of repression. Our lists already include persons who took part in the protests, namely Olga Bendas, Pavel Grin-Romanov, Valery Yevsin, Ilya Pershin, Roman Pichuzhin, Aleksandr Federyakov, Gleb Maryasov and Said-Mukhamad Dzhumayev.
As part of the same repressive campaign, DOXA magazine editors Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metyolkin and Natalia Tyshkevich have been deprived of liberty.
In the same period, a journalist from Ingushetia, Rashid Maisigov, imprisoned on false charges, was recognised as a political prisoner.
Mikhail Alfyorov in Kemerovo, Pavel Zelensky in Moscow, and the brothers Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, as well as Salman Tepsurkayev abducted by security forces in Chechnya, were all imprisoned for their exercise of freedom of expression.
Artyom Zagrebelny was imprisoned in revenge for defending himself when assaulted by FSB officers, as well as to provide a ‘lesson’ to other citizens.
At the request of the Belarusian authorities, Andrei Kazimirau, a participant in protests in that country, was deprived of liberty.
Senior citizen Yury Zhdanov has, as a matter of fact, been taken hostage in order to put pressure on his son.
We recognised Aleksandr Shestun as a political prisoner after a thorough examination of the criminal case against him and of the circumstances of his prosecution.
We urge everyone who is not indifferent to show solidarity with the victims of political repression, to take part in events in support of political prisoners, to disseminate information about them, to provide prisoners with material assistance and to write letters to them.
Free all political prisoners!