Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Danil Beglets, Aidar Gubaidulin, Egor Zhukov, Kirill Zhukov, Evgeny Kovalenko, Aleksei Minyailo, Ivan Podkopaev, Samariddin Radzhabov and Sergei Fomin to be political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that those guilty of their unlawful prosecution be held to account in the courts. We also demand the prosecution of those guilty of the violent dispersal of peaceful protests held by those critical of the authorities in Moscow and other Russian regions.
- The criminal case, opened on 30 July 2019, concerns rioting that allegedly took place in Moscow on 27 July 2019 when many thousands gathered at a protest rally, that did not have ‘official permission,’ over the authorities’ refusal to allow opposition candidates to take part in elections to Moscow city assembly. All nine defendants have been charged under Article 212, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Participation in rioting, accompanied by violence and destruction of property’).
- Four of those remanded in custody - Danil Beglets, Kirill Zhukov, Evgeny Kovalenko and Ivan Podkopaev - have also been charged under Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Use of violence, not dangerous to life or health, against a public official’). On 3 September 2019 Ivan Podkopaev and Danil Beglets were sentenced to terms of three and two years, respectively, in general-regime prison colonies.
- Aidar Gubaidulin and Samariddin Radzhabov, in the view of the investigators, in taking part in riots were preparing to commit acts of violence against law enforcement officers: Article 30, Section 3; Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempt to use violence against a public official’).
- When it became evident there were no grounds to charge Egor Zhukov with rioting, the charges against him were dropped in favour of charges under Article 280, Section2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Incitement to extremism by means of the Internet’).
Why Memorial Human Rights Centre considers the nine to be innocent
- Memorial representatives were at the scene of the events of 27 July 2019 and have studied in detail the video recordings of the protests and of the ‘clashes’ between demonstrators and police, as well as the materials of the criminal case. We are convinced that the demonstration was peaceful in nature. All the evidence speaks to the fact that there were no riots in Moscow.
- According to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the most important civic rights. The authorities must enable the conduct of assemblies and ensure their security. On 27 July 2019 the authorities did precisely the opposite: they hindered a peaceful rally, dispersed it, and detained about 1,500 participants, using force to do so. The unlawful hindering of the conduct of a rally, demonstration or assembly is punishable under Article 149 of the Russian Criminal Code by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to three years.
- The incidents of ‘violence’ with which several of the defendants are charged in the case under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, are, in essence, no such thing. For example, Samariddin Radzhabov could, clearly, not cause bodily harm by throwing a plastic bottle at law enforcement officers wearing helmets and body armour. It is also impossible to consider as acts of violence the moment when Kirill Zhukov touched the helmet of a riot police officer with the fingers of one hand, or when Danil Beglets seized the arm of a police officer. Furthermore, all these incidents happened as a spontaneous response to the unlawful violence exercised by law enforcement officers against the demonstrators.
- The political motive for the prosecution of participants in the 27 July 2019 protest is shown, in particular, by the fact that the demonstration was opposed to the government. We believe the criminal prosecution is intended to put pressure on the participants in protests rallies, held in Moscow over the refusal of the authorities to register independent candidates in the city assembly elections, in order to bring these protests to an end.
- The protesters remanded in custody had, in practice, already been convicted in advance. Moscow’s mayor had stated there had been riots in Moscow, and so too, indirectly, had the press secretary of the president of Russia, thereby putting pressure on the law enforcement agencies and the courts. State television and other pro-government media broadcast the falsehood about ‘riots,’ branding the protesters as criminals sponsored by the West and calling them ‘people from out of town’ (in other words, persons whose rights allegedly could not be violated by refusals to register candidates in the Moscow city assembly elections).
- We consider these unlawful and immoral actions of the authorities are intended to deprive the opposition of public support, forcing citizens to fear participation in the protest movement, and further restricting freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
You can read more about this case 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.
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