Sochi Olympics: Second prisoner of conscience jailed this week

The Russian authorities this morning sentenced environmental activist Igor Kharchenko to five days in detention for allegedly “resisting legitimate police orders”, Amnesty International said as it named him the country’s second new prisoner of conscience since Monday.

Kharchenko’s closed trial was brief and blatantly unfair and no lawyer was present, Amnesty said.

Kharchenko, of the Russian NGO Environmental Watch for North Caucasus (Ecologicheskaya Vakhta po Severnomu Kavkazu), was arrested on Monday night and again on Tuesday after his car was vandalised by masked assailants in Krasnodar, the capital city of the Russian region hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Amnesty International has reviewed video footage of his arrest, which contradicts the police’s allegations that he resisted orders.

Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:

“It took a judge only a few minutes, behind a closed door, to decide that yet another environmental activist should be behind bars when the Games begin. This happened precisely on the day when the Olympic torch arrived in Sochi. Sportsmanship and fair play are hallmarks of the Olympic spirit, but the Russian authorities seem to have thrown out the rule book in favour of silencing critical voices ahead of the Games.

“This foul play must come to an end. The Russian authorities must halt their harassment of civil society activists, protect the right to peaceful freedom of expression, and release the Sochi prisoners of conscience: Igor Kharchenko and his fellow environmentalist Yevgeny Vitishko, who is currently serving 15 days in administrative detention on trumped-up charges.”

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