Russia: Three opposition protesters locked up after Bolotnaya anniversary pickets
Amnesty International today slammed a Russian court’s sentencing of three opposition activists who participated in a peaceful protest in a public square in Moscow this week.
The Moscow court yesterday sentenced Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay to 10 days of administrative detention after they each staged one-person pickets in the capital’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May to mark the third anniversary of a violent police crackdown on opposition protesters there in 2012.
Irina Kalmykova, who joined other peaceful protesters in the square that day, was sentenced to six days of administrative detention, in a trial in which the judge arbitrarily refused to admit her lawyer.
“Nobody should be locked up just for holding a placard and standing in a public square – the fact that these three individuals are being deprived of their liberty for doing just that is yet more evidence of the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to stamp out all visible dissent,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.
“The grounds for charging them are contrary to human rights and they must be released immediately. They have been imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and are prisoners of conscience.”
Aleksandr Ryklin is a journalist, writer and long-term political activist. Sergei Sharov-Delaunay is an outspoken supporter of the activists imprisoned after the 2012 Bolotnaya protests. Both are public figures well known for their political activities as well as for their outspoken criticism of the political situation in Russia.
Police carrying out the arrests on 6 May alleged that both men shouted “anti-fascist” slogans and called for the release of political prisoners, as evidence of them organizing an “unlawful protest”. But the defendants have denied shouting anything or having organized the assembly, and video evidence shows that Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay were silent at the time of their detention and standing apart from the peaceful gathering in Bolotnaya. One-person pickets are the only form of protest which does not require the Russian authorities’ prior approval.
The third defendant, Irina Kalmykova, was charged with “a repeated violation” of the law on assemblies, under draconian legislative changes brought in last year.
Violations of the right to fair trial were reported in all three hearings.
The three were among around 60 people detained on 6 May 2015 in Bolotnaya Square. The others were released after several hours, with at least one other protester receiving a fine of RUB 10,000 (US$ 200).
The Russian authorities had barred any public gathering on that day in Bolotnaya square near the Kremlin. This was an attempt to avoid any public acknowledgement of the anniversary of the violations and injustice committed in the infamous crackdown on the Bolotnaya Square demonstrations of 6 May 2012, which voiced opposition to Vladimir Putin’s return to power.
“The police crackdown on the 2012 Bolotnaya Square demonstrations and the subsequent trials of those who took part have become symbols of protest and repression in today’s Russia. So it’s little wonder the authorities are doing everything in their power to ride roughshod over people’s rights and to repress the memory of those events,” said Sergei Nikitin.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Russian authorities to change the current restrictive laws regulating public assemblies in Russia, which bar any “unauthorized” public gathering larger than an individual picket.