According to the Investigative Committee, Valery Yevsin pushed a metal barrier towards a police officer
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Valery Yevsin a political prisoner, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term. We believe he has been prosecuted for exercising the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We consider Yevsin’s criminal prosecution politically motivated and the sentence he has been given unjustifiably severe and intended to intimidate those bold enough to take part in political protests.
Memorial demands the immediate release of Valery Yevsin and a review of the judgment in his case.
On 23 January Yevsin took part in a Moscow protest in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. According to the investigators, on Strastnoy Boulevard Yevsin pushed a metal barrier towards a police officer. In so doing, he allegedly struck the police officer ‘at least one blow’ in the region of the stomach and chest and ‘caused him physical pain, moral suffering and also harmed his honour and dignity and undermined the authority of the victim as a public official.’
Yevsin was arrested on 29 January. He made a full admission of guilt. Yevsin said he had decided to intervene on behalf of a minor who had been detained, but did not want to cause the police officer physical harm or insult him.
Yevsin’s case was heard in a special procedure. The court took into account his admission of guilt and the apologies expressed to the police officer, and also the fact that Yevsin has two very young dependents.
Nonetheless, on 7 April Moscow’s Tverskoy district court found Valery Yevsin guilty of using force against a public official (Article 318, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two years in a general-regime penal colony.
While Yevsin’s actions constitute evidence of a crime under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, we believe it is important to consider the context of what happened and also the reaction to his actions by the law enforcement and judicial systems.
Yevsin took part in a peaceful protest that was a legitimate expression of public outrage at the authorities’ actions. Nonetheless, the law enforcement agents used force en masse against participants in the protest.
The police officer identified as the victim in Yevsin’s case declared that he ‘felt pain’ from the push. At the same time, the officer in question was wearing complete body armour and did not suffer any physical injuries.
The same day officers from the police force and the National Guard caused serious injuries to dozens of protesters, but have gone unpunished despite the fact that their actions were recorded on photos and videos and the protesters’ injuries have been confirmed by medical records.
We consider that such a selective use of criminal prosecution is evidence of a clear bias on the part of the Russian authorities.
Moreover, the bias of the judicial system in Yevsin’s case is to be seen in the fact that the sentence handed down was significantly more severe than in other cases also prosecuted under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code but unrelated to the protests. We consider the punishment handed down to Yevsin is selective and disproportionate to the danger to the public represented by his actions.
A more detailed description of the case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre are set out 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.