Bolotnaya Case : All 7 persons sentenced today to penal colony must be released

24/02/2014
Press release
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Today a Moscow Court sentenced seven Bolotnaya prisoners for up to four years in a penal colony. They were found guilty of participating in “mass riots” and using “violence against the police” during protests on 6 May 2012, the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for his third term as Russian President. FIDH condemns the severe sentences and demands their immediate release.

“The entire Bolotnaya process is a masquarade” , said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “Independent experts have found that there were no mass riots on 6 May”, he added.

“It is no coincidence that these outrageously severe sentences fell the day after closing the Sochi Olympics”, said Tolekan Ismailova, FIDH Vice-President. “As international attention diverts from Russia, repression of peaceful protest in the country intensifies. The international community must demand the release of all the prisoners of the 6 May”.

The sentences read out by the Judge Natalya Nikishina are the following: 4 years of penal colony for Sergey Krivov, 3 years and 7 months for Andrei Barabanov, 3 years and 6 months for Denis Lutskevich, Alexey Polikhovich and Stepan Zimin, 2 years and 7 months for Artem Savelov, 2 years and 6 months for Yaroslav Belousov. Alexandra Naumova received a suspended sentence of 3 years and 3 months. All of them have already spent over a year and a half in arbitrary detention.

FIDH notes that another Bolotnaya prisoner, Mikhail Kosenko, on 8 October 2013 was declared mentally ill and sentenced to a forced psychiatric treatment. FIDH demands his release.

As hundreds of people protested outside the Zamoskvoretskiy Moscow Court on Friday 21 February 2014, sentencing was postponed until Monday 24 February, the day following the closing of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Monday saw further protests in front of the court, with over 200 peaceful protesters arrested in a further unacceptable step towards curbing peaceful protests in Russia.

FIDH, along with other international human rights groups, commissioned a group of experts to study evidence and testimonies of the events of the 6th of May 2012. These experts have concluded that whilst there were single episodes of violence, there is insufficient evidence to qualify the whole event as "non-peaceful" and even less to qualify them as “mass riots”. Their report “6 May 2012 Events on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow: Expert Evaluation” also notes that the protests on Bolotnaya Square took place in conditions that were likely to provoke violence: a large number of protesters were cordoned off by police in a small compressed space for a long time. Video evidence suggests that the police used disproportionate force on numerous occasions and arrested a number of demonstrators who were not involved in the violence.

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