Punished for Courage? Crimean Political Prisoner Gennady Afanasyev found
Please write to Gennady Afanasyev - even a line or two will be moral support for him and a clear message to the Russian authorities that any act of reprisal for his courage in retracting testimony against Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko will be seen
Alexander Popkov, lawyer representing Crimean political prisoner Gennady Afanasyev reports that his client has been placed in a punishment cell in Maximum Security Prison Colony No. 25 in Syktyvkar [Republic of Komi].
The punishment was imposed after a razor was found. Afanasyev insists that it was planted and believes that the prison administration is planning to place him on harsher conditions within the colony.
No. 25 is described as a maximum security prison colony for prisoners serving a first sentence. The Komi Republic is West of the Urals and very far from Afanasyev’s native Crimea, his family and friends, as well as from his lawyer.
There was no information for over a month as to Afanasyev’s whereabouts. On Sept 4, Olha Afanasyeva had been told that her son was in the Republic of Komi, and was awaiting a further move. Since he had been moved from Rostov after his courageous appearance at the trial of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and detailed account of the torture he had faced, the secrecy only exacerbated concern that Afanasyev would face reprisals.
Afanasyev, Sentsov and Kolchenko were all involved in peaceful protest against Russian annexation and in measures to help Ukrainian soldiers who were effectively held prisoner in their barracks after Russian soldiers seized control of the peninsula.
They and Oleksy Chirniy were all arrested in May 2014, and held incommunicado for weeks before being taken to Russia. On May 30 last year the FSB [Russian Security Service] accused all four men of involvement in a ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’, and pro-Kremlin television showed ‘confessions’ from Chirniy and Afanasyev.
It was clear from the first day of the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko that the prosecution has absolutely nothing against the men, especially Sentsov who was charged with masterminding ‘the plot’. The Memorial Human Rights Centre issued a statement in which it condemned the trial and recognized Sentsov and Kolchenko political prisoners.
The case entirely hinged on the two ‘confessions’. Then on July 31, Afanasyev appeared in court and instead of refusing to testify, as the FSB had insisted he do, while standing by previously given testimony, stated that everything he had said before was a lie, and given under torture.
He later described the earlier torture and the pressure he had been put under before appearing in the courtroom. See: Tortured for testimony against Sentsov-Kolchenko in Russia’s ‘Crimean terrorist plot’ trial
One FSB officer ‘visited’ him since and hit him very hard, and he was known to be facing immense pressure to claim that his retraction was given under pressure. The threats received included menacing words about bad things happening to his mother.
In a statement on Aug 19, the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre recognized Afanasyev as a political prisoner and specifically warned that he was in danger following his retraction of testimony.
Please write to Gennady Afanasyev at the address below. If you are unsure what to write, the following would be quite sufficient:
Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение.
(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).
If you write in English, please avoid complicated structures, and particularly contentious / political remarks since the letter will be vetted by the prison administration.
ANY words of support will be appreciated, and will give a crucial message to the prison administration and FSB that Gennady Afanasyev is not forgotten and that their behaviour is under scrutiny.
167028, Республика Коми, г. Сыктывкар, п. Верхний Чов, ИК-25,
Афанасьеву, Геннадию Сергеевичу (1990 г.)
Please try to alert the media to this case and also ask your government to express its concern for Afanasyev’s safety and to demand that he, Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko are released.