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Russia: renowned human rights activist defender Oleg Orlov on trial for 'discrediting' Russian army

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Deputy chair of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Memorial Human Rights Centre could face five years in penal colony if found guilty

Activist on trial for an article which called Russia a ‘fascist’ state

‘The price he and others pay for exercising their right to freedom of expression in today’s Russia is very high indeed’ - Natalia Zviagina

Responding to the start of a trial in Moscow today of Oleg Orlov, a prominent Russian human rights defender charged with the newly-instituted “crime” of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said:

“The price he and others pay for exercising their right to freedom of expression in today’s Russia is very high indeed.

“Oleg Orlov was brought to the dock solely because of an anti-war article he wrote denouncing Putin’s Russia as a totalitarian fascist society. 

“Oleg Orlov has been fined twice for anti-war pickets deemed to have ‘discredited’ the Russian Armed Forces. 

“The Russian authorities have liquidated Memorial, the human rights organisation of which he had been a leading member, and now they are pressing criminal charges against him. 

“Amnesty International calls on the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against Oleg Orlov.” 

If found guilty, Orlov faces a possible five-year jail term in a penal colony.

‘Discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces’ 

Earlier today, the Golovinsky District Court in Moscow began to consider a criminal case against Orlov, deputy chairman of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Memorial Human Rights Centre, who’s charged with “discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces” under article 280.3(1) of the country’s code. The charges were brought after his article “They wanted fascism. They got it” was published by the French edition of Mediapart last November. Orlov has previously been accused of “discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces” and fined for anti-war pickets he held in Moscow in March and April last year. These administrative penalties paved the way for his criminal prosecution.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre, of which Orlov is a member, was liquidated by Russia’s Supreme Court in February 2022 in contravention of the right to association, and several of its employees have faced criminal charges. Last December, the group was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside the Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski (Belarus).

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