Russia: Human rights defender Alexei Sokolov arrested
A group of Russian human rights defenders have issued a public statement protesting against the arrest in Yekaterinburg of civic activist Alexei Sokolov, involved in defending prisoners’ rights..
Their statement expresses outrage over the persecution in recent days by the Ural law enforcement agencies of human rights activists defending prisoners’ rights. If, as they suggest, the measures are aimed at preventing protests during the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, they could backfire. “Imprisoning people well-known for their principled civic stand, respected civic figures, fuels disgruntlement in society and increases disillusionment in the justice system”.
Alexei Sokolov, who was appointed by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation to a civic supervisory committee, was arrested in his own home in the morning of 13 May. The police’s version is that he is suspected of involved in an attack in 2004 on the industrial base “UralTermoSvar” during which welding equipment and a cable were stolen.
The statement stresses that Alexei was treated roughly, beaten, pushed to the ground and handcuffs placed on him. All of this was in front of his two-year-old daughter who was wrenched from his arms. The police also tried to frisk Alexei’s wife who rushed out onto the street to her husband.
It asks what the purpose of this farcical imitation of a cops and robbers film was and stresses that they could have easily sent Alexei, a respected civic figure and leader of the organization “Legal Foundation”, a summons to appear at the police station. The attack in question was, after all, four years ago. The criminal investigation was terminated at the beginning of the year and then suddenly restarted. According to the statement, Alexei Sokolov expected such kind of trouble: there had been attempts to get prisoners to testify against him which he had make public statements about in the press.
“Several people convicted over the robbery in 2004 had on a number of occasions six months ago complained to human rights defenders that they were being put under pressure to testify against Sokolov. Having received that information, Alexei Sokolov, speaking on behalf of “Legal Foundation”, turned to the Prosecutor’s Office.
Alexei Sokolov became really well-known throughout Russia over the film “Factory of torture” based on documented material of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in Kopeisk in May 2008 and other places of deprivation of liberty. The film also directly established culpability of the police for the recent tragedy in the discotheque “Hollywood” in which teenagers were crushed to death.
On 14 May a court in Yekaterinburg authorized Alexei Sokolov’s arrest for 10 days.
The authors of the statement believe that the accusation over events of five years ago is being trumped up and say that the court warrant is based on his civic and professional activities. They therefore stress that Alexei Sokolov is a political prisoner and demand his immediate release.
They mention another occasions at the end of April when the police burst into the home and detained a human rights activist, Yury Skogarev, who has been investigating the discotheque “Hollywood” tragedy, and demand that an end be put to persecution of people for their human rights activities.
The statement is signed by:
Ludmila Alexeeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Committee
Lev Ponomaryov, Executive Director of “For Human Rights”,
Ella Kesaeva, Co-Chair of “Voice of Beslan”
And other human rights defenders
The statement in full is available in Russian at: http://www.hro1.org/node/5487