Appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev

posted 22 Sept 2010, 12:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Sept 2010, 12:50 ]
Russian human rights defenders and civil society activists have sent an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to intervene in the fate of two anti-fascist activists, Aleksei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, who have been arrested.


Dear Dmitry Anatolievich!

We would like to draw your attention to the extraordinary situation in the town of Khimki in Moscow Region. In the past few years this town has become the epicentre of a legal catastrophe. Journalists, community activists, human rights defenders, in short, anyone who tried to confront the lawlessness and arbitrariness of the city administration has been subjected to numerous reprisals by the local authorities and attacks by “unidentified” mercenaries.

Mikhail Beketov, editor of the local newspaper, was brutally beaten and left to die near his own home. He miraculously survived, but doctors were forced to amputate his right leg and three fingers of his left hand. Today Mikhail remains unable to speak or move independently. There is no possibility for him to resume his professional work as a journalist.

The editor of another local newspaper, Anatoly Yurov, was beaten up on three occasions, suffering severe injuries and concussion. In the most recent attack he received 10 stab wounds. His colleague, Sergei Protazanov, a layout designer at the paper, died the next day from injuries he received during an attack by unidentified individuals.

Following numerous threats, local human rights defender Albert Pchelintsev was kidnapped , shot in the mouth with a pneumatic pistol and thrown into the street. He survived, but his vocal cords are severely damaged. Environmental activist, pensioner Aleksandr Parfenov, was beaten up outside the apartment building where he lives. The attackers damaged his hand.

Two attempts were made to assassinate the activist Vitaly Kapyttsev. One night an unidentified person tried to kill him with a knife in his own home. On another occasion a bomb was thrown into Vitaly Kapyttsev’s apartment through a window.

Activist Eugeniya Chirikova has become a constant target of brutal police harassment and aggression by unidentified persons. Most recently a car attempted to run her over. Unidentified persons have attacked her husband. An attack by neo-Nazis was organized on the environmental activists’ camp protesting against the felling of Khimki Forest. Police who arrived at the scene arrested the victims of the attack instead of the attackers.

These are only the most high-profile cases. For most of them, there is still no official information or even investigation to date. Not one of the perpetrators of these tragic events has been found. The nature of the victims’ work, their active opposition to the city administration, as well as the total failure by Khimki police to investigate these crimes, gives us every reason to suspect the involvement of representatives of the local authorities.

The latest victims of lawlessness have been two young men, Aleksei Gaskarov and Maksim Solopov, both community activists who are close to anti-fascist tendencies. On false testimony and with gross violations of all legal norms, they were arrested and detained in a pre-trial detention centre. They face up to 7 years in prison. In materials presented by the investigation it is stated that the suspects Gaskarov and Solopov were arrested “immediately after committing the crime” (Gaskarov) and “while committing the crime” (Solopov), despite the fact that the arrest took place the following day in Moscow. Both went to the police station voluntarily, having been invited for “a talk”, without a formal requirement to do so. Their relatives were not informed about the fact that they had been detained. Aleksei Gaskarov’s apartment was searched without a warrant, no inventory was made, and no witnesses were present. The court hearings on the question of pre-trial detention held on 31 July, 3 August and 13 August were held in closed session. No compelling reasons for this were presented.

At the same time, the Russian police and security forces launched an unprecedented manhunt for people who actively express anti-fascist views. In violation of the law, these individuals are being forcibly taken to police stations to be interviewed, illegal searches are conducted in their apartments, they are subjected to torture, they are beaten to make them give testimony, and they are forced to sign undertakings to cooperate with the FSB.

Aleksandr Pakhotin, Emil Baluev and Nikita Chernobaev, who were all interrogated in the course of the investigation that has led to the arrests of Aleksei Gaskarov and Maksim Solopov, testified under physical pressure from investigators. In fact, they have been subjected to torture. After interrogation they were obliged to seek medical help. Nikita Chernobaev was taken to hospital by ambulance where doctors diagnosed a non-penetrating head trauma. Interrogators threatened Aleksandr Pakhotin with violence and physical mutilation: they would cut off his ear. In these circumstances, there is no doubt, following the cases of Gaskarov and Solopov, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service have selected new victims from among those disaffected by their lawlessness. We are confident that this lawlessness has no place under the rule of law in a democratic state.

Dmitry Anatolievich, the situation in the town of Khimki has long since passed beyond all permissible limits. The list of victims of lawlessness and organized violence is growing steadily. Today, it is in your power alone, as head of state and guarantor of constitutional rights and freedoms, to put an end to this lawlessness. Only you can save two socially active young men from violent reprisals and stop the terror campaign conducted against journalists and civil society activists.

L. M. Alekseeva, chair, Moscow Helsinki Group
S. A. Gannushkina, Civic Assistance Committee
L. A. Ponomarev, For Human Rights
V. V. Borshchev, member, Moscow Helsinki Group
L. I. Grafova, journalist, human rights defender
Yu. V. Samodurov, curator, exhibition projects
Father Gleb Yakunin, Public Committee for Freedom of Conscience
St. Petersburg Human Rights Council (Secretary to the Board, Natalia Evdokimova)
B. A. Zolotukhin, lawyer, member of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council
Aleksei Devotchenko, actor, Artist of Russia, St. Petersburg
B. N. Strugatsky, writer, St. Petersburg
N. S. Katerli, writer, member, PEN Club (St. Petersburg)
K.M. Azadovsky, chair, Executive Committee, PEN Club (St. Petersburg)
B. L. Vishnevsky, columnist, Novaya Gazeta; member PEN Club (St. Petersburg); member, Bureau of Yabloko Party (St. Petersburg)
M. Ya. Schneider, secretary, Solidarity
E. V. Ikhlov, journalist, Moscow
E. I. Cheryny, secretary, Public Committee for the Defence of Scientists
I. H. Isangulov, journalist, human rights defender, Moscow
V. V. Postnikov, associate professor, Tyumen
D. E. Pyslar, Soldiers’ Rights Foundation, Moscow/Penza
R. N. Badalov, Chechen Committee for National Salvation (Republic of Ingushetia)
G. R. Krasovsky, director, Irkutsk section, Council of the Russian People; chair, National Society for the Preservation of Monuments of History and Culture; chair, Irkutsk section, Journalists of Russia
T.M. Kotlyar, member, Obninsk City Legislative Assembly
O. A. Nesinova, chair, Komi section, For Human Rights
Ludmila Yarilina, Vladimir section, For Human Rights "
Tatiana Malushina, Vladimir section, Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia
V. A. Shaklein, chair, Interregional Human Rights Centre
Elena Denisenko, lawyer, Kizlyar
Liliya Shibanova, Executive Director, VOICE Association
V. N. Khatazhukov, Kabardino-Balkaria Human Rights Centre
S. I. Isaeva, Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights
Zarema Gasanova, journalist, Dagestan