There are 158 names in the lists that we are publishing today.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is kicking off in Russia on 14 June. Football fans from around the globe are coming to Russia to see their favourite teams playing their favourite game. But while they are crowding into Russian stadiums, hundreds of political prisoners stay crowded behind bars all over Russia. It as is important to tell the stories of these unjustly imprisoned, as the stories of those who have already drawn much attention of international community like the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who went on hunger strike in May to demand the release of all Ukrainians held in Russia as political prisoners, or the Chechen human rights defender, head of the Grozny office of the HRC Memorial Oyub Titiev.
There are 158 names in the lists that we are publishing today. Out of them, 50 are included in the general list of political prisoners; 108 names are in the list of the persecuted in connection with the realization of their right to freedom of religion.
These lists are far from being complete. They include only those cases for which we have managed to collect and analyze sufficient information for a convincing conclusion to be drawn about a politically motivated and illegal nature of the criminal prosecution. Despite information scarcity and the relativity of the term «political prisoner», our lists give a minimum estimate number of people illegally imprisoned for political reasons by the Russian authorities and allow monitoring the dynamics in this sphere.
Over the last three months, since the publication of the previous lists on 1 March 2018, the total number of political prisoners has grown by 15 people.
The number of people in the general list of political prisoners which contains the names of all political prisoners, except those persecuted in connection with the realization of the right to freedom of religion and religious affiliation, has grown from 46 to 50 people. Over last three months, Dmitry Borisov, a defendant in ‘the 26 March case’, Ivan Barylyak, a housing rights activist from Stavropol, and the opposition activist from Moscow Mark Galperin were released from custody and house arrest. Over the same period, the names of Ukrainians Oleksandr Shumkov and Mykola Dadeu, charged with their alleged membership in the Ukrainian nationalist organization ‘Right Sector’ (‘Pravy Sektor’) banned in Russia, the political strategist Piotr Miloserdov, the activist from Kolomna Valentin Sokolov, the activist from Primorsky Krai Dmitry Tretyakov, and Roman Maryan and Vyacheslav Shatrovsky charged in connection with the events of 5 November 2017 were added on the list.
The list of individuals persecuted in connection with the realization of the right to freedom of religion and religious affiliations has grown from 97 to 108 people. A vast majority of those added on the list was charged with their membership in the organization of Hizb ut-Tahrir groundlessly labelled as «terrorist» in the Russian Federation: Aidar Aidarbekov, Naïl Miniakhmetov, Maksim Puigin, Radik Imangulov, and Albert Shafiyev were convicted in Bashkortostan; Sukhrob Ironov, Akhmalchon Numonchonov, Mirzobakhovaddin Kurbonov, and Naimdjon Khodjayev — in Moscow; the Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Memedeminov is a defendant in a similar case. At the same time, the list has also grown at the expense of Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted in Russia. On this list, we have included the name of Anatoly Vilitkevich, a Jehovah’s Witness from Ufa, arrested in April 2018. Yet, the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in custody by the Russian authorities has already reached 17 people.
Football is about playing fair. It is impossible to play fair while violating human rights, suppressing dissent and imprisoning political opponents. That is why in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup, it is so important to draw attention to the fate of political prisoners in Russia and tell their stories. We have already been doing it in the campaign «FIFA: Play Fair! Fight for the Forgotten!» that we launched together with the Greens — European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.
Russia must play fair!