Nikolai Sentsov, charged in the case of the Baltic Vanguard of the Russian Resistance (“BARS”), is a political prisoner

02.03.2018

We demand that Nikolai Sentsov, and the other defendants charged with participation in BARS, be immediately released, and that there be an impartial investigation into the charges brought against them.

Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognized Nikolai Sentsov, a resident of the town of Baltiisk in Kaliningrad region, as a political prisoner. Sentsov has been charged with an offence under Article 282.1 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code (participation in an extremist group) on the grounds that, allegedly, he is a member of the monarchist organization «Baltic Vanguard of the Russian Resistance» [«BARS» in its Russian acronym].

Memorial Human Rights Centre has previously recognized three Kaliningrad residents, charged in the same criminal case, as political prisoners: Aleksandr Orshulevich, Igor Ivanov and Aleksandr Mamaev.

The detailed grounds for considering the prosecution of the other defendants charged under Article 282.1 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code to be unlawful, and the lack of grounds for designating BARS an extremist organization, are set out in a summary of the case. While these prosecutions all contradict Russian and international law, the prosecution of Nikolai Sentsov is unlawful and absurd to a greater extent.

Despite the fact that, in the first days after Sentsov was detained, the FSB sent a weapon seized from him for ballistic and explosives analysis, they did not provide the results of these analyses to Sentsov’s legal defence, nor the results of an analysis intended to establish whether biological traces of the suspect were found on the weapon, which was quite possibly planted on Sentsov. The investigators provided no evidence that Sentsov had illegally kept the weapon for purposes of extremism.

Moreover, according to the defence lawyers, as of the end of February 2018, four months after Sentsov had been remanded in custody he had still not been charged under Article 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, possession, transport or carrying of a weapon, its main parts or ammunition) or Article 222.1 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, possession, transport or carrying explosive substances or explosive mechanisms) of the Russian Criminal Code. In other words, the decisions to remand Sentsov in custody, and to extend custody, were based on assertions by the investigators that are not founded on any factual evidence and contradict the procedural decisions taken by the investigators.

The defence asserts that while Sentsov was in custody no investigation was carried out. At the same time, on more than one occasion investigative officers suggested to Sentsov that he should give evidence about Aleksandr Orshulevich and other defendants, promising a relaxation of the pre-trial restrictions should he do so. Sentsov categorically refused. According to the information in the possession of the defence, the investigators suggested to Sentsov that he should say he had given military training to members of BARS, and that Orshulevich had prepared acts of terrorism to be carried out in Kaliningrad region.

All this is particularly outrageous given that, as it would seem, Nikolai Sentsov has not even been a member of BARS. His relatives, acquaintances and lawyers assert that not only was he not a member of BARS, but that he was in fact neither a nationalist or a monarchist, but holds opposition, democratic views. An examination of Sentsov’s social media pages on Vkontakte and Twitter by Memorial Human Rights Centre has drawn the same conclusion, since they contained no content that would indicate their owner (without doubt a supporter of the protest movement) shared the ideology of BARS.

We demand that Nikolai Sentsov, and the other defendants charged with participation in BARS, be immediately released, and that there be an impartial investigation into the charges brought against them.

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.

For more information about this case, see here.

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Сенцов Николай Александрович родился 8 ноября 1971 года, проживал в городе Балтийске Калининградской области, начальник судовой радиостанции в в/ч 45707, гражданский активист.

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