Russian opposition leaders call on Yushchenko to intercede on Gangans behalf
The leaders of the coalition of opposition forces «The Other Russia» Garry Kasparov and Edward Limonov, as well as the politicians Vladimir Ryzhkov and Boris Hemtsov, have addressed an open letter to President Yushchenko asking him to ensure an unbiased review of Mikhail Gangans application for refugee status in Ukraine.
As already reported here, Mikhail Gangan was taken into custody in Vinnytsa on 31 December in a joint operation carried out by the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Russian Security Service.
21-year-old Gangan is a member of the National Bolshevik Party (led by Edward Limonov) which is banned in Russia
Appeal to Viktor Yushchenko in connection with the case of Mikhail Gangan
Dear Viktor Andriyovych,
We are writing to you with regard to an activist of the opposition coalition «The Other Russia» 21-year-old Mikhail Gangan who is being held in a SIZO [remand centre] in the Vinnytsa region. He could be extradited to Russia where he faces unjust and politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment for several years. Mikhail Gangan is a political activist and one of the organizers of the March of those in dissent [Marsh niesoglashnykh] in Samara. Mikhail took part in a peaceful protest action at a presidential administration reception office, for which he received a 3 year suspended sentence, although he spent one year remanded in custody during the court proceedings. Mikhail has been constantly persecuted for his political views and activity and has faced detentions and searches. This has prompted him to seek refuge in another country. He arrived in Ukraine on 10 December 2007 and approached the Regional Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees applying for refugee status in Ukraine. The court in Vinnytsa did not take this fact into consideration and placed M. Gangan in custody [the details here are not quite accurate – see the links below – translator]
Note that this is not the first Russian political opposition activist or journalist who has sought asylum in your country. Ukraine is not simply the nearest country to Russia, with close links in culture and history. Over recent years Ukraine has also been an example of democratic change, an example of a free country with working democratic institutions. Russia has at the same time slipped towards authoritarianism, with the security services and enforcement agencies becoming all-powerful and lawless. Violations of human rights have become rife, with a lack of freedoms and an independent justice system.
Persecution of political activists continued throughout last year. Dozens of young people have been in prison for several years for peaceful, non-violent actions during which they called for free elections, the abolition of censorship, an investigation into the terrorist acts at Beslan and “Nord Ost”, and the deaths of people, compensation for deposits which disappeared. Dozens of people have been beaten, hundreds have been unlawfully detained. Searches, attacks and raids on activists are constantly occurring at the present time also. In December 2007 a 22-year-old activist of «The Other Russia» Yury Chervochkin died after being beaten up while posting leaflets protesting against the unfair elections. Before the beating Yury had been persecuted by officers of the Moscow Region Department for Fighting Organized Crime; they threatened him and demanded that he give up his political activities.
Are more examples needed to prove that the persecution of «The Other Russia» activists being carried out by the Putin regime have been ordered as a hunt of its political opponents? This is a hunt in which they stop at neither prison terms nor killings. We are certain that the request for Mikhail Gangans arrest and extradition are a suggestion from the Russian authorities to the authorities of democratic Ukraine to take part in persecution of the opposition in Russia and to become complicit in a police regime.
We would ask you and the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs to avoid any unlawful actions, bearing in mind that Mikhail Gangan is presently applying for refugee status as well as the overtly political motive for the criminal prosecution against him in the Russian Federation. We would ask you to ensure Mikhail Gangan access to fair asylum seeking procedure. We are convinced that the RF application for Gangans extradition has been made in order to persecute and punish him for his political convictions and his participation in non-violent actions by the opposition. Extradition in such cases is directly prohibited by Article 3 of the European Convention on Extradition.
We hope that the situation with Mikhail Gangan will be reviewed without delay by all competent bodies in Ukraine and that a just and lawful decision will be reached.