Ekaterina Kharebava, convicted of 'espionage', is recognised as a political prisoner

posted 22 May 2015, 05:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2015, 05:52 ]
13 May 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
On 14 November 2014 Krasnodar regional court sentenced Ekaterina Zhorzhievna Kharebava, b. 1969, to six years in a penal colony under Art. 276 (Espionage) of the Russian Criminal Code. In 2015, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the verdict, dismissing the appeal.

Ekaterina Kharebava, who was working as a market seller in Sochi at that time, was found guilty of witnessing Russian troop movements in August 2008 and "informing the military representative of Georgia of this fact, thereby handing over information constituting a state secret, which harmed the interests of the Russian Federation".

Art. 276 of the Russian Criminal Code defines as a criminal offence the "transfer, and also collection, theft, or keeping for the purpose of transfer to a foreign state, a foreign organisation, or their representatives of information constituting a state secret, and also the transfer or collection of other information under the order of a foreign intelligence service, to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation".

There is nothing to suggest that information on the redeployment of troops to Abkhazia in 2008 could have damaged Russia's external security, as it was done with the aim of invading the territory of Georgia from the territory of Abkhazia.

There is also no evidence that Kharebava reported on troop movements under the orders of a foreign intelligence service.

Neither the case documentation nor the findings of military experts attesting to the fact that the information conveyed by Ekaterina Kharebava was a state secret explain how the overt movement of Russian military hardware, witnessed by many other people and reported in the media, could turn out to be classified.

Thus, the actions of Ekaterina Kharebava, who used legal means to pass on unclassified information available to a wide range of individuals, do not fall under this definition of espionage; she is being prosecuted for taking lawful, and not criminally punishable, actions.

The fact that the case against Ekaterina was brought four years after she "committed the acts" in question attests to the political nature of the case.

It was the first in a series of criminal cases that were initiated en masse in 2014-2015 under articles on treason and espionage (Arts. 275 and 276 of the Russian Criminal Code).

They include the cases of Svetlana Davydova, Vladimir Golubev, Evgeny Petrin, Sergei Minakov and others, all of which bear the hallmarks of a political campaign that reflects the government's policy to isolate Russia on the international stage and set it in confrontation with other countries.

No legal evidence was submitted in court in the Kharebava case that the collection of data from Ekaterina's telephone lines had been lawful. This violates her rights, which are guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international legal instruments recognised by Russia. It also renders the evidence in question inadmissible and invalidates the legal proceedings based upon that evidence.

After reviewing the case file and facts surrounding the case, the Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognised Ekaterina Kharebava as a political prisoner: it has not been proven that her actions constituted a crime; her rights to privacy of correspondence and fair investigation have been violated; there are indications that documents have been falsified; and her punishment is blatantly selective.

We believe the criminal prosecution of Kharebava to be illegal and politically motivated, and we demand an immediate review of the case and Ekaterina’s release.

For more information on this case visit the Memorial Human Rights Centre website.

The recognition of individuals as political prisoners does not mean that the Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with the views and statements of those recognised as political prisoners, nor does it signify its approval of their statements or actions. 

For photos of the Russia - Georgia conflict, see HERE

Translated by Lindsay Munford