14.12.2006 | Vera Vasilyeva

Yet again political prisoners in Russia


The Third All-Russian Civic Congress took place in Moscow from 11 – 12 December 2006, with around 500 participants. On the first day of the Forum, there were sections for particular topics, and then on the second, a plenary session was held where participants of the All-Russian Civic Congress from Moscow and the regions spoke. Those addressing the Forum included Gary Kasparov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Irina Khakamada, Ivan Starikov, Sergei Mitrokhin, Edward Limonov and others, as well as the human rights defenders Ludmila Alexeeva and Lev Ponomaryov.

Probably the most interest both among the participants, and from the mass media, was evoked by the section: “The limitation of forms of public and political active engagement and persecution for political and public activities”. Its moderators were Ludmila Alexeeva from the Moscow Helsinki Group and Lev Ponomaryov from the movement “For Human Rights”.

Participants acknowledged bitterly that in Russia which considers itself a democratic country there are once again political prisoners.

Those present, unanimously supporting the resolution passed on the eve of the Second All-Russian Civic Congress, named the following as political prisoners:

  • The scientists Igor Sutyagin and Valentin Danilov who have fallen victim to the spy mania;
  • Victims of the YUKOS affair – the businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the lawyers Svetlana Bakhmina and Vasily Aleksanyan, the Head of the Department of Economic Security of the oil company Alexei Pichugin and others arrested in the same case;
  • The lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, persecuted for his independent investigation into terrorist acts (the bomb explosions in blocks of apartments in 1999 and “Nord-Ost”);
  • The Chechen student Zara Murtazaiieva, convicted on charges which human rights groups believe to be fabricated;
  • Activists of the National-Bolshevik Party presently held in SIZO [remand centres] and penal institutions in the Russian Federation for taking part in peaceful protest actions;
  • The victims of trials of “revolutionary organizations” – Nadezhda Raks, Olga Nevskaya and Vladimir Belashov;
  • Muslim activists accused of “Vakhabistvo” or “ khizbut-takhrirstvo” [the investigators’ term] and not implicated (according to their defence lawyers) in violence, calls to violence or spreading an ideology of hatred.

The participants in the Congress also mentioned that the following people had been convicted on political grounds but not to terms of imprisonment: the scientists Anatoly Babkin, Oscar Kaibyshev and Vladimir Shchurov, the human rights activists Yury Samodurov and Stanislav Dmitrievsky.

All of this, they believe, demonstrates the restoration of the worst traditions of the Soviet totalitarian era. In addition, a normative legislative basis is being developed for repressive measures.

For example, the Presidential Decree No. 90 from 11.02.2006 classifies as secret methods for running investigations regarding people charged with crimes “against the foundations of the constitutional system, the security of the state, peace or security of mankind”. Thus, the requirements of the Criminal Procedure Code of the RF with regard to investigation methods have been rendered meaningless. And the formation of an Anti-terrorist committee headed by the FSB has led to the appearance of an institution given exceptional powers and standing above the official government of the country.

The sections also spoke of the renewal in Russia of the punitive psychiatry which was practised in Soviet times. It was reported that there had been several cases when public activists without any good justification had been forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals.

“We demand the release of political prisoners and the restoration of justice with regard to them. We demand an end to politically motivated court trials”, Lev Ponomaryov stressed.

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