Human Rights Defender Aleksei Sokolov Declares Hunger Strike

posted 16 Jun 2011, 15:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jun 2011, 15:10 ]
Source: HRO.org (info), 10/06/11
 
 
Human rights defender Aleksei Sokolov has declared a hunger strike. As reported to the Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, this act of protest is being taken against violations of prisoners’ rights at Hospital Penal Colony No. 37. In particular, prisoners are prohibited from wearing sportswear at a certain specified period of the day and the times allocated for showers and phone calls have been restricted.
 
According to Aleksei Sokolov, on 7 June the prison administration at Hospital Penal Colony No. 37 revised the lists of prisoners who had been allocated to the waiting lists for making phone calls. Aleksei Sokolov was refused any calls. The refusal was justified on the grounds that the law stipulates a prisoner should have no more than 6 telephone calls per year. At the same time, the penal colony’s administration allowed 20 other prisoners who actively cooperated with the administration to make phone calls.
 
According to Grani.ru, the Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights sent appeals to the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Supervision of Correctional Institutions in Krasnoyarsk region. In these appeals, the Foundation requested that the period available for making phone calls be extended. They also requested that the length of time stipulated by law for the taking of a shower be ensured, and that wearing sportswear be permitted.
 
On 9 June it also became known that a judge had denied Sokolov the opportunity to serve the remainder of his sentence under a milder form of punishment. During the court hearing Judge Petrushina, sitting at the Sosnovoborsk Town Court in Krasnoyarsk region, turned down all petitions and arguments of the defence.
 
Human rights defender Aleksei Sokolov had also been denied parole in December 2010. This refusal was based on the grounds that Sokolov had previously been given two disciplinary sanctions. On 18 August 2010, Ekaterinburg Regional Court had reduced Aleksei Sokolov’s term of imprisonment from five to three years. On 13 May, the Bogdanovich Town Court in Sverdlovsk region had found Sokolov guilty of robbery in the town of Bogdanovich (under Article 161, Section 3 of the Russian Penal Code - “Robbery committed by an organised group”) and theft in the town of Krasno-Ufimsk (under Article 158, Section 3 of the Russian Penal Code - “Large-scale theft committed by means of illegal entrance into a residence”). The only evidence that these crimes had been committed by the human rights defender was testimony provided by criminals who had long since been convicted.
 
All witnesses for the prosecution are currently in prison, and in the hands of the Federal Penitentiary Service whose activities Aleksei Sokolov used to monitor as leader of the Sverdlovsk region NGO Legal Basis and as a member of the Public Oversight Commission for Detention Facilities in Sverdlovsk Region.
 
As a result of investigations conducted by Aleksei Sokolov, many prison officers were brought to justice. For this reason, human rights defenders and civil society activists believe that the fabrication of criminal charges against him is revenge by “law enforcement” agencies for his public campaigning.
 
Those who have already spoken out in support of Aleksei Sokolov include Federal Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, members of the Public Chamber Anatoly Kucherena and Genry Reznik, chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala, and human rights defenders Lev Ponomarev and Ludmila Alekseeva. The Public Chamber’s Commission for Public Oversight of Law Enforcement Agencies has recognised the criminal case against Sokolov as fabricated.
 
Aleksei Sokolov became well-known when he made and distributed the film “Torture Factory, or An Educational Experiment”, based on documentary materials showing training which involved the violent punishment of prisoners. Aleksei Sokolov also led independent investigations into the killing and torture of prisoners at the Kopeisk Penal Colony on 31 May 2008 and other instances of cruel punishments in places of detention.
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