Russia: Violent attack on human rights activist in Moscow condemned

67-year-old human rights chief thrown to ground, kicked and beaten by gang after YUKOS concerns raised

An assault yesterday on Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev has been condemned by Amnesty International, which has called for the attack to be fully investigated by the Russian authorities.

Mr Ponomarev, 67, head of “For Human Rights”, a Russian non-governmental organisation, was attacked by three men late last night near his home in Moscow. He was thrown to the ground and kicked and beaten. Ponomarev has a long record of speaking out against human rights violations in Russia and has recently criticised the authorities' handling of their investigation into YUKOS, the giant oil company, including the trial of the company’s former head, Miikhail Khodorkovskii and his associate, Platon Lebedev.

Just prior to the attack, Mr Ponomarev had met Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s “Rapporteur”, regarding allegations of politically-motivated abuses of the criminal justice system in connection with the YUKOS trial.

Meanwhile, Lev Ponomarev has also repeatedly criticised the Russian penal system. At a press conference last June he outlined what he sees as the ill-treatment of detainees in Russian penal colonies. During this event Mr Ponomarev was attacked by a group of young people, allegedly acting on behalf of a Russian parliamentarian, who pelted Ponomarev with eggs. Lev Ponomarev has also told his family that he believed he has been under surveillance.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Programme Director Nicola Duckworth said:

"President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian government must speak out clearly against the increasing climate of intolerance towards human rights defenders and send a message that such abuses, whether by private individuals or by state officials, will not be tolerated.

“Far too many abuses against human rights and civil society activists, lawyers and journalists have gone unpunished and perpetrators believe they can act with total impunity.

“The continuing silence in view of the many recent threats and attacks will be equivalent to condoning such crimes."

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