Environmentalists given three years for spoiling "Tkachev's fence"

Source: HRO.org (info), 20/06/12

· Persecution of activists  · Public protests   · Krasnodar region

On 20 June, the Tuapse City Court pronounced sentence on a case against Suren Gazaryan and Evgeny Vitishko, activists from North Caucasus Environmental Watch, which has since been nicknamed by bloggers as the case of "Tkachev's damaged dacha fence". The young defendants, who had pleaded not guilty, were sentenced to three-year suspended prison sentences with a two-year probation period.

This was reported by the Agora Human Rights Centre, citing Marina Dubrovina, the lawyer representing Evgeny Vitishko at the behest of the human rights defenders.

"We will definitely be appealing this sentence," Dubrovina declared. "We are convinced that the ruling that has been made today is unlawful and unfounded. Practically all our applications to the court were rejected and all those made by the prosecution were immediately upheld. On occasion they even forgot to bother asking for our opinion of the Prosecutor's applications. The prosecution's witnesses constantly confused their evidence. They gave us 30 minutes to prepare for our presentation of the case, which took place yesterday very late in the evening. The whole judicial process was conducted in incredible haste, actually taking 2 days."

Suren Gazaryan and Evgeny Vitishko were charged with the intentional damage or destruction of property motivated by hooliganism (Article 167, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). On 13 November 2011, Gazaryan and Vitishko held a protest action to defend a stretch of the Black Sea coast. According to the investigation, the environmentalists covered the barbed wire topped fence surrounding the elite private residence near Tuapse with graffiti saying: "This is our forest", "This is our land", "Party of Thieves" and so forth. On 21 November, a criminal case was brought. In March the investigation applied to the Tuapse Regional Court for Suren Gazaryan to be remanded in custody. However, the court rejected this application. A specialist appraisal of the fence came to the conclusion that over 119,000 roubles worth of damage had been done to it, a conclusion with which the defence categorically disagreed.