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Bekhtold Arrested "For Distribution of Leaflets"

Upcoming Elections: Ryazan Police Arrest Activist Aleksandr Bekhtold “For Distribution of Leaflets”

On 26th February 2010, near the building of the Ryazan Regional Duma, Aleksandr Bekhtold, executive director of the Ryazan branch of For Human Rights [a human rights NGO] and activist with the opposition movement The Other Russia, was arrested for “the distribution of leaflets”. After having spent nearly three hours in the police station, Aleksandr Bechtold was informed by law enforcement officials that he was not under arrest – they were simply “having a chat” with him.

A correspondent from Our Ryazan reported on this issue from the scene:

Whilst the meeting of the Regional Duma was taking place, activists from the coalition movement The Other Russia distributed leaflets near the entrance to the building: “On 14th March, elections to the Ryazan Regional Duma will take place. Unfortunately, these elections will be neither fair, nor democratic. A dirty and deceitful campaign has been unleashed against opponents of the United Russia political party. Illegal leaflets are being printed against the Communists, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and single constituency candidates – this is a universal violation of electoral legislation.

The journalists of Our Ryazan note that Aleksandr Bekhtold was arrested by a police patrol that drew up alongside him after the rally had ended and the rest of the participants had dispersed.

Lev Ponomarev, executive director of For Human Rights strongly condemned the detention of Aleksandr Bekhtold in Ryazan: “We have been informed of the arrest of the head of the Ryazan regional branch of For Human Rights, Aleksandr Bekhtold. This occurred at the end of a rally, where leaflets were being handed out. Bekhtold was taken to the Soviet district police department in Ryazan. The content of the distributed leaflets detailed citizens’ attitudes towards a number of gross violations of electoral rights. This particular arrest that occurred after the rally is a violation of civil rights and the law; since Bekhtold did not violate the law (the distribution of leaflets is not a picket; at the moment of his arrest, Bekhtold had committed no crime – he was simply walking along the street.)”

Having spent nearly three hours in the police station, Aleksandr Bekhtold was informed that he was not under arrest – they were simply “having a chat with him”. According to Aleksandr Bekhtold, no charges relating to an administrative violation were brought against him.

A duty officer at the Soviet district police department in Ryazan told a reporter that Aleksandr Bekhtold was arrested for the distribution of politically aggravating material, which was not in accordance with the requirements of the law regulating elections to the Ryazan Regional Duma. Representatives of The Other Russia argued that urging others to refuse to vote cannot be seen as electioneering.

Aleksandr Bekhtold said that the police had “decided to conduct an inquiry, during which they will establish whether the information contained in the leaflets amounts to electioneering. They will also ascertain who else, alongside Aleksandr Bekhtold, was distributing the leaflets near the building of the Regional Duma.”

Rights in Russia,
28 Feb 2010, 09:25