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Memorial says Vyacheslav Shashmin, a resident of Rostov-on-Don charged with attempting to take part in civil unrest, is a political prisoner


Memorial Human Rights Centre has already recognised as political prisoners two of three defendants in the case of alleged attempts to organise civil unrest in Rostov-on-Don: Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov.

Vyacheslav Shashmin, a Rostov-on-Don resident, has been charged with an offence under Article 30, Section 3, and Aricle 212, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempting to take part in riots’). If found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to six years in prison. While Shashmin has been under house arrest since 10 November 2017, as a matter of fact he has been deprived of liberty since 5 November 2017 when he was detained by police officers in civilian clothes from the Anti-Extremism Centre, without any lawful grounds, in the centre of Rostov-on-Don. He was then sentenced to five days in prison under administrative law on a fabricated charge of petty hooliganism.

Memorial Human Rights Centre has already recognised as political prisoners two of three defendants in the case of alleged attempts to organise civil unrest in Rostov-on-Don: Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov. After studying the materials of the case against Shashmin and the arguments put forward by his defence, we have concluded that he is without question a political prisoner since the charges against him almost wholly identical to those brought against Sidorov and Mordasov, while there is a total absence of any evidence whatsoever that Shashmin took part in any so-called ‘riots.’

We consider the version of events put forward by the official investigation implausible. Vyacheslav Shashmin, in all probability, was not acquainted with either Mordasov or Sidorov. He was detained not on Soviets’ Square, where Sidorov and Mordasov planned to organise a peaceful picket, but nearby in the courtyard of House No. 20 on Avenue Sokolov. He first met Sidorov and Mordasov after his arrest at the police station. Moreover, Sidorov and Mordasov, the two other suspects in the case, clearly did not commit any offence themselves. They were planning to hold a picket without weapons and merely with placards of a non-extremist nature, leaflets and megaphones. They were not organising civil unrest or attempting to overthrow the regional government.

The investigation provides no explanation why, if what was committed was not the ‘preparation’ but an ‘attempt’ to organise civil unrest, there was no evidence that such unrest might begin. Numerous witness statements and responses by official bodies to questions by lawyers acting for Shashmin confirm the absence of any indications whatsoever that there might have been riots, pogroms, arson attacks or any other actions dangerous to the public in the area near the regional government offices. The very notion that civil unrest might begin as a result of a simple picket putting forward very ordinary demands is absurd. On that basis, any participant in any picket, including those that have official permission, and took place not on 5 November 2017 but on any other day, could be accused of having the same intention. However, this does not make such a intention realisable or give it any basis in fact. Indeed, similar charges might be laid against any passer-by who happened to be near such a picket and for some reason or other appeared to be acting in a manner that seemed ‘suspicious’ to the agents of law enforcement. The detention and criminal prosecution of Shashmin without any objective grounds is an absurdity.

Amnesty International in a statement has expressed “serious concern about the ongoing criminal prosecution of Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov charged with attempting to organize, and take part in civil unrest, and Viacheslav Shashmin, charged with attempting to take part in civil unrest, in Rostov-on-Don, south-west Russia. […] Having studied available information on the case, Amnesty International believes that the criminal prosecution is unfounded, and the charges fabricated. Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov are prosecuted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. All charges against them and against Viacheslav Shashmin, who claims he had no connection to street protest by Sidorov and Mordasov, must be immediately dropped. They are prisoners of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. Amnesty International is deeply concerned about Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasov and Viacheslav Shashmin’s arbitrary detention and violation of their right to personal liberty and fair trials. We are also concerned about reports of use of torture and other ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’ from Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Vyacheslav Shashmin a political prisoner and calls for his immediate release.

We also demand that officials guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of participants in public events, and chance passers-by, unlawfully detained on 5 November 2017 be held to account.

Memorial Human Rights Centre continues to monitor the campaign of prosecutions against those charged with preparation of the ‘Revolution 5/11/17.’ This campaign began in the autumn of 2017 and has resulted in the opening of dozens of criminal investigations, including in relation to those charged with terrorism and preparing civil unrest. In all likelihood, a significant number of those charged are innocent and have no connection at all with Maltsev or the Artpodgotovka group, which has been banned in Russia.

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. 

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 More information about his case is available on our website.