Newsletters / Weekly Human Rights Report

Hello everyone! This week once again we’ve been dealing with old cases, and we thought we’d remind you about a few of them. We are also currently raising funds to cover legal support for one of Alexey Navalny’s volunteers who is being pursued by the authorities under the guise of ‘extremism’ for posts he made and deleted on Vkontakte. Check out this week’s cases below and pledge your support.

Moscow Activist Fined For Carrying Vegan Poster

Rostislav Chebotarev was on his way to a May Day demonstration with a group of vegans while carrying a poster saying, “No exploitation – become a vegan.” The police saw that one of the activists in the crowd had an LGBT flag and the whole group was detained. After almost three months, and with the assistance of our lawyer, the court has issued a fine to Rostislav for 15 thousand rubles.

Activist Rostislav Chebotarev has been fined 15,000 rubles. As indicated in the court decision, the group of vegans, including Chebotarev, “violated the rules of a demonstration; they displayed posters and symbols for preserving the animal world, propagating vegetarianism and non-traditional sexual orientation.”

Open Russia lawyer Olga Dimitroglo said that the real composition of the offence is missing, “the activists were searched, examined twice and admitted to the demonstration. They did not commit any illegal actions.” Dimitroglo added that the Communist Party members, who had organized the demonstration, also approved all the posters.

At the request of the lawyer, the police officers that detained Chebotarev, were called to his hearing. They explained that they had carried out the detention after seeing LGBT flags. The activists were also accused of violating regulations, which was not officially submitted to the court.

On May 1,17 people from a vegan group were detained during approved demonstrations in Moscow. The 22-year-old, Rostislav Chebotarev, was let in with a poster stating “No exploitation – become a vegan”, after passing through the metal detector and an inspection of the poster, his bag and the contents of his pockets. Furthermore, the organizers of the event approved the poster.

An hour and a half after the start of the demonstration, the police blocked off the group and demanded for the posters to be put away and began to detain the participants. The police lead them in to a mobile detention unit with the use of harsh physical force. They did not officially present themselves and did not explain the reason for the detention, nor did they establish the rights of the activists.

Tverskaya District Court Fines Open Russia Human Rights Manager

In May, five activists, including members of Open Russia, carried 2 million signatures to the Prosecutor General’s Office demanding to investigate the oppression of gay people in Chechnya. The police considered their actions as a demonstration and proceeded to detain them. Only in July did the court hearing finally take place. Thanks to our legal assistance, the case was reconsidered and a fine of 10 thousand rubles was issued.

The Tverskaya District Court of Moscow has fined Open Russia Human Rights manager Valentina Dekhtyarenko 10,000 rubles.

On May 11, Dekhtyarenko and four other activists planned to hand over two million signatures to the prosecutor’s office, demanding that they investigate the persecution of gay people in Chechnya.

The police accused the activists of organizing an unsanctioned rally. According to the police, the boxes that were in the hands of the protesters “attracted too much attention”. This became the official reason for the detention.

Dekhtyarenko specified in court that the activists were acting within their constitutional rights by making a collective appeal to the state.

Open Russia lawyer Henri Tsiskarishvili, noted that there were no grounds for administrative punishment, as the demonstration can not be qualified as a rally. The activists did not publisize the demonstration, did not distribute leaflets, did not shout out slogans and did not stand with posters and placards.

Tomsk Pensioner Fined 5000 Rubles For Video Message to Putin

70-year-old Ekaterina Gavrilina and her colleagues recorded a video message to Putin in which they talked about corruption in the local law enforcement system. Subsequently she and three more of the most active participants were detained for an allegedly ‘unauthorized demonstration’.  Gavrilina had to leave the courtroom twice due to poor health, however she was still sentenced to a 5,000 ruble fine. Our local Open Russia coordinator, Alexei Pryanishnikov, observed the situation and advised the activists as well as helping them find a lawyer for their defence.

The Lenin court in Tomsk, has issued a fine of 5,000 rubles to 70-year old pensioner Ekaterina Gavrilina. The charge was brought against her for holding an ‘unauthorized demonstration’ during the recording of a video message for Vladimir Putin’s annual ‘Direct Line’ TV performance.   On June 15 Gavrilina and 12 other people recorded a video address to the president.  In the address they talked about corruption in the local Tomsk police force.  The police proceeded to detain several of the participants of the video message, among whom was Gavrilina. She has been charged with violating the order of a demonstration. On July 26 the 70-year-old was brought to court, where during the hearing she started to feel unwell and an ambulance was called.

Navalny Volunteer Accused of Extremism for Deleted Comments on Russian Social Network ‘VKontakte’

Alexei Mironov expressed his views exclusively on his personal page of VKontakte. Nevertheless, two criminal cases have been opened against Mironov regarding extremist articles for deleted records. The comparison of Putin with Hitler which Mironov commented on was considered to be calling for the implementation of extremist activities. We believe that criminal prosecution for speech and opinions is unacceptable and so we decided to help Alexei to fund a lawyer. For this we need to collect 25 thousand rubles.

In August 2016, 24 year-old Alexei Mironov, received an call from an unidentified number. The caller introduced himself as a policeman and stated that he needed to talk to Alexei. This is how Mironov first became involved with an administrative and then a criminal case based on several deleted posts on Russian social network site Vkontakte.

The young man was taken only an hour later to the police station where he was charged with “Public Demonstration of Prohibited Symbolism”. The case was made as a result of a reposted picture of the president next to a swastika. The court issued a fine of 1,500 rubles. The case was forgotten until a year later when the topic of the deleted posts arose yet again. The police turned up with a search warrant and confiscated Mironov’s passport, hard drive, 3 knives and his mother’s religious literature. They also searched his grandmother’s flat.

After the search Mironov was called to the police station and charged with “Public calls for extremist activities” and “The incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as the humiliation of human dignity”. The two posts that were the cause of the charges were: “I officially call for a forced change of government” commented under a picture saying “God bless the USA, keep calm and fuck Russia” and another comment stating “Muslims should be exterminated”.

Experts of the Ministry of Justice found that the picture about the US “calls for extremist actions”, and the message about Muslims degrades their dignity on religious grounds.

Mironov states he doesn’t understand why he is under such close surveillance, “I work as a taxi driver and am not really interested in politics that much,” he said. The first political event that he went to, was the “Enough” demonstration on April 29 and he only came to volunteer for Navalny after the incitement of the criminal case.

Lawyer Yuriy Ivanov says that cases like Mironov’s happen 3 to 4 times a year. This he speculates may be because periodically a certain issue arises at the law enforcement services and they begin to crack down on all cases of that issue. In this case it is extremist offences, investigated in order to improve their statistics.

Even before the end of the investigation, the volunteer was added to the list of terrorists and extremists by Rosfinmonitoring under the number 4564. Navalny commented that Mironov could potentially face severe consequences with as much as 5 years in prison.

On July 28, Mironov was again summoned to the FSB so further investigations could be conducted. The Open Russia Human Rights team is currently collecting funds for a lawyer for Mironov’s case.  A minimum of 25,000 Rubles ($415) is required to provide the right support.  If you would like to get involved, please consider making a donation.