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19.11.2015 | Halya Coynash

3-year sentence for critic of Putin & Crimean annexation upheld

   

Condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea really can get you a lengthy term of imprisonment.  A Russian Federation court has confirmed the 3-year sentence passed on Rafis Kashapov for material posted on the social network VKontakte in which he criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Tatarstan Supreme Court thus followed the Naberezhnye Chelny court in accepting, as claimed by the prosecution, that Kashapov had made “public calls to violate Russian territorial integrity” and was guilty of “hate speech”. 

This position is not shared by the Memorial Human Rights Centre which has called Kashapov a political prisoner.  The authoritative Sova Centre has also condemned the sentence.  It has examined the material and found no trace of the offence envisaged by Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code (“public calls to violate Russia’s territorial integrity”) or any incitement to enmity. Kashapov’s conviction is a violation of freedom of speech. 

The Sova Centre points out that Rafis Kashapov and his brother Nafis are prominent activists from the Tatar national movement.  Nafis emigrated from Russia in 2005, and one of his texts was recently blocked for readers in the Russian Federation. 

Rafis Kashapov was earlier convicted and received a suspended sentence under Article 282 § 1 (incitement to hatred or enmity)in 2009 over one text written by Kashapov opposing the forced christening of babies reported in one Tatarstan maternity hospital and several posted by the Tatar Public Centre which Kashapov heads.  The Sova Centre then examined the material and found no grounds for the charge of inciting enmity.  It noted only that one text simply reposted on the Tatar Public Centre site from a Chechen separatist site Ichkeria.info could possibly fall under Article 28O – ‘public calls to extremist activity’, however this was not what Kashapov had been charged with.

The material which Kashapov was charged over is still available on VKontakte – perhaps as warning of how very little can get you a three-year term of imprisonment.  Kashapov himself has been in detention since his arrest on Dec 28, 2014.

This is what he was convicted over.

A brief post entitled Yesterday – Hitler and Danzig, today Putin and Donetsk!  This shows pictures of Putin with the caption reading: “Crimea has always been and remains an inalienable part of Russia” and of Hitler saying “Danzig was – and is a German city”.

The text asserts that since Russia’s occupation of Crimea the new unrecognized authorities have been destroying everything Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.

The text Crimea and Ukraine will be free of the occupiers! reports a demonstration in Ankara with banners reading, “Putin, get out of Crimea!” and calling both Stalin and Putin murderers.  The protest, which Kashapov writes was supported by a large group of Crimean Tatars, was against a visit to the Turkish capital by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It criticizes the Turkish authorities for meeting with Putin and says that the latter is following Joseph Stalin’s tradition and carrying out a chauvinistic policy with respect to the Crimean Tatars.  He mentions the 18 Crimean Tatars who have disappeared since Russia’s invasion and searches of homes, mosques and religious schools.  He speaks of Russian “karateli” – those carrying out punitive operations and a term regularly used on Russian television but about Ukrainians.

In the post “Let’s defend Ukraine and the entire Turkic world!” Kashapov suggests among other things that Putin needs a victory over the Ukrainian people in order to remain in power.  He says that Putin’s plan is to crush the Ukrainian revolution, destabilize the situation, etc.  In short, roughly similar to what any number of analysts regularly write and exactly the position put in the report Putin. War that Boris Nemtsov was planning to write when he was gunned down outside the Kremlin in Feb 2015.

One final entry has a photo collage with the title “Where there’s Russia, there are tears and death”.   The photos are from conflict in Moldova; Chechnya; Dagestan; Georgia and Ukraine. 

An ‘expert assessment’ asserts that Kashapov’s texts deliberately stir up hatred to the following: “Russians”; “Russian authorities”, the Crimean “occupation authorities”; “President Vladimir Putin”.

The charges of ‘incitement’ had been used before, however Kashapov’s case is the first time that a person has been convicted of “public calls to violate Russian territorial integrity”.  The article has been in force since May 9, 2014, and was widely feared as likely to be used to silence criticism of Russia’s invasion and annexation.  Kashapov’s trial has demonstrated how well-founded the fears were. 

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