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Sova Centre on the Criminal Charges Faced by Activists of the Voina (War) Group

Source: hro.org (info), 19/11/10

· Right of Assembly · Freedom of Speech · Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg · Protests

On 15 November 2010 it became known that the St. Petersburg law enforcement agencies had begun criminal proceedings under Article 213 (Section 1, Part b: hooliganism motivated by hatred) in relation to the performance art protest by the Voina (War) Group, entitled Palace Coup. It is not yet clear what kind of hatred - social, ideological or political - would be alleged as the motivating factor for the actions of the accused performance artists. In any case, this aspect of the criminal charges may be changed in the course of the investigation.

During the September 2010 performance protest against police lawlessness and in support of reform of law enforcement agenices, a police car was overturned.

Leonid Nikolaev and Oleg Vorotnikov, two of the group’s activists, were arrested on 15 November. Both activists were placed in pre-trial detention.

It is undisputable that those involved in the protest caused damage to property and this fact could become the basis for criminal or administrative proceedings. The necessity of such proceedings and the nature of the imposed sanctions would depend on the extent of the material damage caused. It is hard to gauge the accuracy of the evaluation of the damage of 98,000 roubles, as announced by St Petersburg City Police Department.

In any case, the refusal of bail and the imposition of pre-trial detention is excessive, since the act committed, if it does fall under criminal liability, belongs to the category of minor offences. In St Petersburg, a city where those accused of crimes of violence motivated by hatred are often granted bail on condition of travel restrictions, the placement of the two artists in pre-trial detention looks odd.

Clearly, this application of detention is predicated on the view that the act of overturning a police vehicle is a crime of extremism. We believe this to be untrue, since we are convinced that actions that are of little danger and are not linked with violence against the person should not be associated with such motives as social, ideological or political hatred. If we are to exclude the ‘extremist’ motive, all that remains is an ordinary incident of damage to a motor vehicle, which should be investigated as such.

Source: Sova Centre for Information and Analysis

 

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Rights in Russia,
22 Nov 2010, 00:36
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