The guilt of Aleksandr Atamanov has not been proved and key pieces of evidence in the case were fabricated. He himself has repeatedly said that violence was used against him in pre-trial custody and threats made against his relatives
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Aleksandr Atamanov a political prisoner, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term. We consider the authorities prosecuted Atamanov as part of their anti-Ukrainian campaign. The alleged crime with which Atamanov was charged simply did not take place; the evidence was falsified. It is possible Atamanov was tortured. We urge that the charges against Atamanov for an offence under Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code, be immediately dropped; that an impartial investigation in relation to charges under Part 2 of Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, be conducted; and that reports of the use of violence and threats against him be investigated.
Who is Aleksandr Atamanov and what are the charges against him?
Aleksandr Atamanov, a freight handler and sportsman from Pyatigorsk, has been charged (under Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code) with recruiting others to take part in the activities of an extremist organisation; and acquiring and possessing large amounts of drugs (under Part 2 of Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code).
According to the investigators, on 23 December 2018 Atamanov allegedly shouted slogans of Right Sector, an organisation banned and designated as extremist in Russia, on a street in Pyatigorsk for an hour, and also distributed leaflets and urged passers-by to join the organisation.
On 21 March 2019 Atamanov was detained for petty hooliganism (under Article 20.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations), allegedly because of using swear words, and at the same time, according to investigators, drugs were found on him. After he had served a jail term for the administrative offence, he was detained for a criminal offence, and since 25 March 2019 he has been held on remand.
Pyatigorsk town court is hearing Atamanov’s case and will soon hand down a judgment.
Why does Memorial consider Atamanov a political prisoner?
The political motivation for the prosecution lies in the position taken by Russia regarding the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine. Russia denies that it is a participant in the conflict but takes a clearly anti-Ukrainian position. This is seen in statements by officials, in propaganda, in the assistance provided to the separatist formations in the east of Ukraine, and in the ban on Ukrainian nationalist organisations. Since 2017 a campaign has been underway to prosecute supporters of Right Sector. Atamanov has been among the victims of this campaign, although his links with the organisation have not been proved.
It is probable that the prosecution was the result of a number of factors: a personal conflict, slander, and the desire of law enforcement officers to improve their statistics for combating extremist organisations. The charges of hooliganism and drugs were probably used to isolate Atamanov and put pressure on him.
The case materials show signs of the falsification of evidence — for example, Atamanov’s arrest in improbable circumstances when key pieces of evidence were discovered, and witnesses who were not independent of the law enforcement officers and who may be considered suspicious. There is no convincing evidence of guilt.
The charge of recruiting for Right Sector is itself unlawful, since the organisation was designated extremist on the basis of very weak arguments and in gross violation of fundamental legal procedures.
During the proceedings against Atamanov there has possibly been a violation of the prohibition on torture. Atamanov has stated that threats of physical violence were made against him at the time of his arrest, and according to Atamanov’s wife, Atamanov was also the object of violence and threats during the time he has been held on remand.
A more detailed description of the case and the position taken by Memorial Human Rights Centre are set out on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.