Prisoner of conscience expects parole decision

Yan Sidorov (left) and Vladislav Mordasov, Russian youth activists and PoC's - Copyright Credit: Elena Kolmykova
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In a series of mass fires in Rostov-on-Don in July and August 2017, more than 160 houses were destroyed, one person died, and dozens suffered injuries. Around 700 people were officially recognised as victims. While some compensation for the loss of property has been paid, the authorities did not allow people to build new houses on the same plots of land and did not pay compensation for the loss of their land, which in turn prompted rumours that the fire may have been started deliberately to evict the residents and clear the site for new developments. 

On 5 November 2017, 18-year-old college student Yan Sidorov and 21-year-old Vladislav Mordasov came to the square in front of the Rostov-on-Don Region administration to hold a peaceful picket in support of the victims of Rostov fires. They had several printed leaflets, a loudspeaker and two rolled up handwritten posters that they had made the day before. The posters read: “Return the land to victims of Rostov fires” and “The government should resign”. Even before they could start the picket, police arrested them for holding an “unlawful gathering”. On the same day, police arrested 18-year-old Viacheslav Shashmin outside a block of flats close by. Viacheslav Shashmin claims that he did not know Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov at the time and did not participate in their picket. 

On 6 November 2017, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov were sentenced in separate proceedings to seven days of “administrative detention” each under Article 20.2, part 2, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (“Organization or conduct of a public event without proper notification of the authorities of this event”). Both were then remanded in custody as criminal suspects. Viacheslav Shashmin was given five days of “administrative detention” on spurious charges of “petty hooliganism” under Article 20.1 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences. He was later placed under house arrest, and then under travel restrictions. While in police custody, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov were reportedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in an attempt to extract “confessions” that they were going to organize a violent demonstration. 

On 17 November 2017, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov were falsely charged with the crimes of “attempting to organize mass disturbances” (Article 30, part 3, Article 212, part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and “attempting to participate in mass disturbances” (Article 30, part, 3, Article 212, part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). Viacheslav Shashmin was charged with “attempting to participate in mass disturbances”. 

The trial of the three young men started in Rostov-on-Don regional court on 29 May 2019. During the trial, at least a third of the prosecution’s witnesses refused to confirm their earlier testimonies given during the pre-trail investigation and stated that they had given them under pressure from the investigators. The charges were manifestly false, and the trial of the three men was unfair. On 4 October, Rostov-on-Don Regional Court found Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov guilty of “organizing” and Viacheslav Shashmin of participating in “mass disturbances” on 5 November 2017. The Court sentenced Yan Sidorov to six years and six months and Vladislav Mordasov to six years and seven months in a strict regime penal colony (a type of penal colony reserved for those convicted of most serious crimes). Viacheslav Shashmin was handed a three-year suspended (non-custodial) sentence. On 10 December 2019, the Third Court of Appeal in Rostov-on-Don upheld Yan Sidorov’s and Vladislav Mordasov’s convictions. 

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