3-year sentence for criticizing Putin and Russia’s annexation of Crimea
Updated information: although Kashapov was sentenced to two years on each of the articles, it seems that the overall sentence is 3 years (journalists in court reported four years)
A Russian court has sentenced 56-year-old Rafis Kashapov to three years imprisonment over social network posts criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine. The prosecution claimed – and judge Dan Shakurov in the Naberezhnye Chelny court accepted – that these were ‘public calls to violate Russian territorial integrity’ and ‘hate speech’. This is the first prosecution and verdict on charges under the new Article 280.1 § 2, and has, as feared, been used against expressions of opposition to Russia’s occupation of internationally recognized Ukrainian territory.
Kashapov’s lawyers were involved in other court proceedings on Sept 14, but the judge refused to postpone the hearing, and only civic defenders were present. One of them, Renat Nurgali told Grani ru that the sentence was based on the testimony of people pulled in off the street and asked leading questions about the ‘impression’ that Kashapov’s texts made on them.
The sentence will, of course, be appealed, however nothing about this case gives any grounds for optimism.
Kashapov, the Head of the Tatar Public Centre, was arrested on Dec 28, 2014 and has been in custody ever since.
The charges are literally of inciting hatred or enmity (Article 282 § 1 of the Criminal Code) and “public calls to actions aimed at violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity” via the Internet (Article 280.1 § 2).
The latter article has been in force since May 9, 2014. It criminalizes what are termed ‘public calls to violate Russian territorial integrity’ with this punishable by 4 years, or 5 if via the Internet.
With Crimea under Russian occupation, it was widely feared that the new regulation would be used to silence any criticism of Russia’s invasion and annexation which has been condemned by the UN, EU and all democratic countries. The concern has, unfortunately, proven justified.
The charges over which Kashapov was remanded in custody and has now been sentenced by a first instance to court to four years imprisonment, are based on four posts on the social network VKontakte.
They are all still available on the Internet which rather suggests that the Russian FSB wants people to see them and take warning of what they could face for any equally innocuous expressions of opinion.
There is a brief post entitled Yesterday – Hitler and Danzig, today Putin and Donetsk! It 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”.
Some of the comments by these ‘experts’ cannot strictly be called inaccurate. They say, for example, that Kashapov’s texts create a negative attitude to the actions of the Russian authorities in Crimea and the impression that the peninsula was illegally joined to Russia; and that it is not a part of Russia. They also assert that Kashapov calls to action to defend Crimea from Russian occupation.
Where they find the latter ‘calls’ is unclear. Certainly the Sova Centre which monitors hate speech and xenophobia found no grounds for the accusations against Kashapov who has been recognized as a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Rights Centre.