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18.09.2007 | Halya Coynash

Solitary confinement for not saying hello

   

It has been six months since Mikhail Trepashkin, serving a sentence widely considered to be politically motivated, was moved to the solitary confinement cell of the Nizhny Tagil Penal Colony No. 13.  This is despite his sentence being for a (milder regime) colony-settlement, despite the fact that the ruling to move him to a harsher regime is still not legally in force, and regardless of the serious state of Trepashkin’s health.  These are only a few of the “despites” and yet the response from the European Union and other international institutions remains pitiful.

At a press conference, Trepashkin’s lawyer Yelena Liptser and Mikhail Kriger, Head of the Public Committee in support of Mikhail Trepashkin explained that according to the colony’s administration, the “grounds” for moving Trepashkin to a harsher regime had been that he didn’t say hello to a staff member and other such “misdemeanours”.  The ruling changing his regime was passed by the Tagilstroevsky district court in Nizhny Tagil on 9 March 2007.  The regime designated is for those who have committed serious crimes, we presume more serious than not saying “hello”.  More to the point, Trepashkin was moved - immediately, that is before the court ruling even had a chance to come into force – to a prison cell being used as a remand unit. These units are used for holding convicted prisoners who have committed crimes while serving their sentences and are effectively a form of prison.

During the press conference, Yelena Liptser stressed that since this ruling has been appealed and is awaiting examination, it is still not legally in force, reinterating the fact that Trepashkin is being kept in such conditions totally against the law.

In fact, Mikhail Trepashkin suffers from bronchial asthma and needs a proper medical examination to ascertain the degree of his breathing difficulties. Since the third and fourth degrees of bronchial asthma constitute grounds for release according to Russian legislation, blithe answers from the authorities that Mr Trepashkin is in adequate health must be verified as a matter of the greatest urgency.

“Cut and paste” commands on a computer make texts like this all too easy given the number of times we have already reported the details of this case.  Are there equally mechanical responses which are allowing people to accept that a person is being systematically driven to an early grave in violation of Russian law and all international human rights conventions?

A brief reminder of this case (more information, including over the recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in Trepashkin’s favour, can be found by following the links).  Mikhail Trepashkin is in ill-health, he has children, and he is in prison on politically-motivated grounds.  The international community has no right to sit back and do nothing

Mikhail Trepashkin was sentenced in May 2005 to four years’ imprisonment in an open prison colony for illegal possession of ammunition and divulging state secrets.

Russian human rights defenders consider Mikhail Trepashkin to be a political prisoner. Amnesty International has also stated that Mr Trepashkin’s prosecution was politically motivated.

We would draw your attention to the PACE report issued in September 2006: Fair trial issues in criminal cases concerning espionage or divulging state secrets (Doc.11031)

“(36). Mr Trepashkin, a former FSB officer turned human rights lawyer, who defended the interests of several victims of the Moscow apartment building bombings, was first arrested - for illegal possession of a firearm - a week before he was scheduled to appear in court and present material potentially embarrassing for the FSB. Mr Trepashkin has consistently maintained that the weapon was planted by the FSB. He was later acquitted of this charge, and accused and finally convicted of having divulged official secrets whilst employed with the KGB/FSB.”

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