Darya Kostromina. "Application of the Article on a Terrorist Association of the Russian Criminal Code against Political Activists"

Publication date: 08.10.2020

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Terrorism charges have been steadily rising. Over the past years, even those who don’t track information on political persecution in Russia heard at least about the trial of the Network case, which, according to the investigation and court, is allegedly an anarchist militant group trained to carry out terrorist attacks and overthrow the government, but according to the defense, a dispersed group of amateur airsoft players engaged in paramilitary sports for fun. As for those who happen to follow these cases closely, this story became a logical continuation of the trend and, alas, far from the end.

Political activists of completely different ideologies, from far-right to far-left, have already suffered from completely or partially trumped-up charges of terrorism. These groups include Orthodox monarchists, adepts of the USSR, nationalists of different degree of radicalism, antifascists, anarcho-communists, defenders of territorial integrity of Ukraine. Accusations of such kind are also applied to journalists.

On the one hand, fabricated terrorist charges against activists and journalists are just the tip of the iceberg, with Muslims and migrants from predominantly Islamic countries at the center. On the other hand, the secular part of terrorism charges is expanding, and this problem deserves the utmost attention.

This report gives an overview of the persecution of political activists under Article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Organizing a terrorist association and participating in it”), since this report, along with others, is usually imputed to participants in group cases. Activists and journalists are persecuted not just as groups, but sometimes as individuals, as in the case of the anarchist Ilya Romanov or the pro-Ukrainian resident of Crimea, Oleg Prikhodko. Dagestani journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev is charged with financing terrorism, and Pskov journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva is charged with justifying terrorism. Nevertheless, group cases are the mostly large-scale; they are used to a greater extent for state propaganda, and more fully illustrate repressive methods. We will not just study the accusations of involvement in terrorist communities per se, but also related charges incriminating the subjects of these criminal cases: of preparing and carrying out acts of terrorism, possession of weapons and ammunition, etc.

For our analysis, we have selected four of the most famous cases of persecution under Article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code (the case of Oleg Sentsov, the case of the Baltic Avant-Garde of Russian Resistance (BARS), Artpodgotovka case, and the Network case), as well as the criminal case of Autonomous Combat Terrorist Organization (ABTO), where sentence had been passed before Article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code was issued, nevertheless in all respects it is similar to further cases under the article.