'Open Russia' activist Anastasia Shevchenko is a political prisoner, Memorial says

18.02.2019

The prosecution of Anastasia Shevchenko is politically motivated, intended to force her to abandon or change the character of her civil society activities as a political activist and critic of the current authorities.

Anastasia Nukzarievna Shevchenko, born on 23 October 1979 and a resident of Rostov-on-Don, is an activist with the Open Russia movement and a board member of the organisation. Anastasia Shevchenko has been charged with an offence under Article 284.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Carrying out the work on Russian territory of a foreign or international non-governmental organisation, the activities of which have been ruled to be undesirable on Russian territory’). The maximum penalty for the offence is six years’ deprivation of liberty. Anastasia Shevchenko has been under house arrest since 23 January 2019.

In 2018 Shevchenko was prosecuted twice for an administrative offence under Article 20.33 of the Russian Administrative Code for participation in the activities of Open Russia. These administrative prosecutions served as grounds for the criminal charge laid against Shevchenko on 18 January 2019 for a third violation in the course of one year (this is analogous to the provision under the law regulating public events by which persons can be subject to criminal prosecution law for repeat violations of administrative law). On 21 January Shevchenko’s home (along with those of at least nine other persons from Rostov-on-Don, Ulyanovsk and Kazan) was searched. Shevchenko was arrested and held for two days in a cell, and since 23 January has been under house arrest by order of Lenin district court. This decision was taken regardless of the fact that, in addition to a minor son and daughter, Shevchenko had a 17-year-old daughter, Alina, who was then seriously ill and had lived for more than 10 years in a boarding school in the city of Zverevsk because of her condition. Shevchenko told the court she was the only adult relative caring for this child and regularly visiting her. On 29 January Rostov region court upheld Shevchenko’s house arrest. On 30 January investigator Aleksandr Tolmachev laid the charges against Shevchenko. At that time Shevchenko’s daughter, Alina, was in intensive care in a critical state. On 31 January Alina died (Shevchenko was allowed to visit her daughter in intensive care for a short time before her death and to attend her funeral).

We consider Anastasia Shevchenko to be a political prisoner. The categorisation of organisations as ‘undesirable,’ and the provisions of the law establishing penalties for carrying out the activity of such organisations on Russian territory, are open to arbitrary and unjustifiable application, in contradiction with the principle of legal certainty and other fundamental legal principles. We are witnessing the criminalisation of actions by individuals that are wholly lawful and legitimate. Persons are prosecuted under administrative or criminal law merely on the grounds that their lawful actions were allegedly carried out in association with the activity of an organisation. Open Russia conducts non-violent and lawful political and human rights work. Those specific instances, in which allegedly Shevchenko carries out the work of an undesirable organisation (participation in the meeting of Open Russia in Ulyanovsk and participation in the rally ‘#Nadoel’ [#Enough]), are manifestations of lawful civil society activity. In themselves, criticism of the authorities or ‘discreditation of the bodies of executive government’ are lawful and legitimate actions.

The prosecution of Anastasia Shevchenko is politically motivated, intended to force her to abandon or change the character of her civil society activities as a political activist and critic of the current authorities. Shevchenko has been deprived of her liberty solely because of her political convictions and because of her non-violent realisation of the freedoms of thought, expression, information, assembly and association, as well as other rights and freedoms. The prosecution of Shevchenko is a part of repressive state actions against Open Russia (which is inseparably linked in the eyes of the authorities with the figure of M. B. Khodorkovsky), and against political opposition and critics of the government in general.

Furthermore, there are clear indications in the criminal prosecution of Shevchenko (as in earlier prosecutions under Article 20.33 of the Administrative Code) that evidence in the case has been fabricated. For example, it is asserted without any proof that Open Russia, in whose activities Shevchenko took part, is a foreign (British) organisation, although all available evidence shows that this is not the case (see, in particular, the charter of Open Russia and the results of an internet search of public registers of British organisations).

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 the case of Anastasia Shevchenko is available on the website of the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

Программа: Поддержка политзеков

Шевченко Анастасия Нукзариевна родилась 23 октября 1979 года, проживает в городе Ростов-на-Дону; участница и член Совета Общественного сетевого движения «Открытая Россия». Обвиняется по ст.