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14.03.2013

Abducted in Kyiv. Whereabouts presently unknown

   

The lawyer representing Leonid Razvozzhaev, the Russian opposition activist who was abducted from Kyiv in October while in the process of seeking asylum,   says that neither he nor Razvozzhaev’s family have any idea where he is being held. 

“What is more, lawyer Ivanets who went to see Razvozzaev in the SIZO remand prison on Monday, was at first allowed in and told that Razvozzhaev was on his walk was then told that the latter was not in the SIZO. Or supposedly wasn’t.  All of this looks very suspicious”, Dmitry Agranovsky said.  He added that he has learned from unofficial sources that Razvozzhaev has been moved to Khabarovsk and is asking the Human Rights Ombudsperson to intervene.

According to HRO.org It was learned on 11 March that Razvozzhaev had been moved from the Irkutsk (Siberia) SIZO but there was no indication of the destination.  Agranovsky said last week that he believed his client to be scheduled to return to Moscow.  Khabarovsk in that case will indeed be a blow.

The lawlessness in this case has been truly breathtaking.

Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted in the middle of the day on 17 October 2012 when he stepped out for a break while completing his application for asylum at a Kyiv partner to the UNHCR partner.  He was heard crying for help and seen being forced into a car with Ukrainian number plates.  He was then taken across the border into Russia, where on 19 October a Moscow court remanded him in custody for 2 months, with this later extended.  He had supposedly “handed himself in” and “confessed”, however was able in court to shout out that he had been tortured. He has since retracted the “confession” he says was beaten, threatened and blackmailed out of him.

There had been no extradition request and Razvozzaev was in Ukraine legally.  He was also, effectively, an asylum seeker and therefore under international protection.

The Ukrainian authorities said nothing at the time, and have largely given fob off statements or vague promises of investigations since. Valeria Lutkovska, Human Rights Ombudsperson, was reported as having asked the authorities for information but has since consistently ignored questions regarding their response.  She was just as unforthcoming over the forced return of another asylum seeker to the Russian Federation in August 2012.

The  response from the Interior Ministry was particularly memorable. On 24 October spokesperson Volodymyr Polishchuk announced  that no criminal investigation would be initiated since a foreign national had been abducted by a foreign security service and the latter did not share their information.

Charges

It should be noted that back in October, the only charges against Razvozzhaev were based on an anti-opposition television programme on the pro-Kremlin TV channel NTV. 

This charge “of organizing mass riots” remains.

The Russian investigators are also claiming that he illegally crossed the border into Ukraine, though this seems to clash with Ukrainian reports.

A new charge was then laid, literally days before it would have become time-barred because the 15 year period had elapsed.  This is in connection with a 1997 criminal case, with Razvozzhaev accused of having taken part in an armed attack on a Siberian fur dealer and theft of 500 fur hats and video camera.  There is a positively Soviet ring to the way the investigators have responded to understandable scepticism about the reinstatement of a 15-year-old case.  They claim that the wife of the fur dealer contacted the relevant authorities expressing indignation that nobody had been prosecuted.

This charge may well have been laid in order to get Razvozzhaev out of Moscow.  Siberia is very far away, and as demonstrated now, it is hard to keep track of a remand prisoner, let alone having proper access to him.

The last (to date) charge is particularly cynical. On 18 January Russia’s Investigation Commission informed that Razvozzaev has been charged under Article 306 § 2 of the RF Criminal Code – knowingly false allegations (literally, denunciation).  The Commission’s Central Investigation Department has supposedly checked out Razvozzaev’s allegation that he was tortured by an investigator from the same Commission during the period from 19 to 21 October 2012.  His allegations were not found justified, and therefore Ravozzhaev was warned of criminal liability if he continued to make them.  Since he remains adamant that he was subjected to torture and pressure, he now faces a new – fourth – charge of making knowingly false claims which, were he to be convicted, would carry a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment.

This last charge, if they continue with it, would create a truly terrifying precedent.  Both Russian and Ukrainian investigators are notorious for unlawful methods of interrogation, or more bluntly, of beating confessions out of people.  The European Court of Human Rights would almost certainly consider such charges in response to allegations of torture to be in breach of the European Convention, but how many people in custody would choose to keep quiet rather than risk charges over “false allegations”?

This case, in short, is becoming more and more shameful by the day.

Halya Coynash

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