Pichuzhin was sentenced to two years in a penal colony for pushing a riot police officer; the court ruled Pichuzhin had struck the officer
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Moscow opposition activist Roman Pichuzhin a political prisoner. We believe he has been prosecuted and convicted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The criminal prosecution of Pichuzhin was politically motivated. His unjustifiably harsh punishment has the aim of intimidating those members of the public who take part in protests.
Memorial demands the immediate release of Roman Pichuzhin and a review of his conviction.
Roman Pichuzhin, a 44-year-old Muscovite, is a heating engineer by profession. Prior to his arrest, he worked for the Moscow United Energy Company, in the department providing heating to the northwestern districts of Moscow. He had also acted as an election observer, was a member of a district election commission and, in 2017, was a candidate in the municipal elections in his home district of North Tushino.
Roman Pichuzhin is a defendant in the so-called ‘Palace Case.’ He has been charged with assaulting a National Guard officer at a rally on 31 January in support of Aleksei Navalny.
On 2 March 2021 Pichuzhin was arrested as he left a detention centre where he had been serving a 30-day jail sentence for an offence under administrative law.
The next day a court remanded him in custody on charges of violence against a public official (Article 318, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code).
According to the Investigative Committee, Pichuzhin ‘struck a riot police officer in the torso with his fist.’ The defence insists Roman did not intend to physically hurt the law enforcement officer and, as a matter of fact, did not strike the officer but pushed him away from a person who had been detained.
On 29 June 2021 Moscow’s Meshchansky district court sentenced Pichuzhin to two years in a general regime colony. The harsh sentence was handed down despite a series of mitigating circumstances, including the fact that Pichuzhin has a young child and himself suffers from epilepsy.
Why Memorial considers Pichuzhin a political prisoner
Memorial Human Rights Centre has reviewed the video footage of Pichuzhin's confrontation with the National Guard officer, who is the victim in the case.
We believe Pichuzhin's actions on 31 January would be classified more accurately as a push rather than a blow.
Despite the fact that, formally, Pichuzhin's actions may meet the definition of a crime under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, in our view it is important to consider them in the context of the events of 31 January, as well as to take into account the reaction of the law enforcement and judicial systems.
Roman Pichuzhin was detained at a protest in solidarity with the politician Aleksei Navalny, who had first been the victim of an assassination attempt with a weapons-grade poison and then was imprisoned in a politically motivated prosecution on charges fabricated against him. The mass protests across Russia in January 2021 were a legitimate outcome of public outrage.
Violence was widely used against participants in the winter protests. Police and National Guard officers severely injured dozens of people. This has been documented in photos and videos and confirmed by medical documents. Nevertheless, not a single law enforcement officer has been prosecuted. Moreover, there is no evidence that cases of violence against protesters have been investigated in any way, even in the most egregious cases.
We believe the selective nature of Pichuzhin’s prosecution demonstrates clear bias on the part of the Russian authorities.
It is evident to us that, if Pichuzhin had committed the exact same acts in a different context, and not at a public protest, he would not have been remanded in custody and then sentenced to a term in prison. Most likely, there would have been no criminal case against him at all.
We believe the punishment imposed on Pichuzhin is selective and does not correspond to the real public danger presented by his actions.
More information about the case of Roman Pichuzhin and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
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