‘Nobody should be locked up just for holding a placard and standing in a public square’ - Sergei Nikitin
Amnesty International has criticised the jailing of three opposition activists who participated in a peaceful protest in a public square in Moscow earlier this week.
A Moscow court yesterday sentenced Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay to ten days of administrative detention after they staged one-person pickets in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of a violent police crackdown on anti-Putin protesters in the square in 2012.
One-person pickets are the only form of protest which does not require the Russian authorities’ prior approval.
Irina Kalmykova, who joined other peaceful protesters in the square, was sentenced to six days of administrative detention, in a trial in which the judge arbitrarily refused to admit her lawyer. Aleksandr Ryklin is a journalist, writer and long-term political activist, and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay 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 alleged that both men had shouted “anti-fascist” slogans and called for the release of political prisoners, supposedly evidence of them organising an “unlawful protest”. The defendants denied shouting political slogans or having organised the assembly, and video evidence shows that Ryklin and Sharov-Delaunay were silent at the time of their detention and standing apart from the peaceful gathering in Bolotnaya. Meanwhile, the third defendant, Kalmykova, was charged with “a repeated violation” of the law on assemblies, under draconian legislative changes introduced last year. Violations of the right to fair trial were reported in all three hearings.
The three were among some 60 people detained in Bolotnaya Square on Wednesday. The others were released after several hours, with at least one other protester receiving a fine. The Russian authorities had barred any public 6 May gathering in Bolotnaya square (near the Kremlin), apparently an attempt to avoid any public acknowledgement of the anniversary of the violations and injustice committed in the 2012 crackdown.
Amnesty has repeatedly called on the Russian authorities to change the current restrictive laws regulating public assemblies in Russia, which bar any “unauthorised” public gathering larger than an individual picket.
Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office, said:
“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.
“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.”