TWEET! #KeepingScore #Russia: – repeal laws restricting free expression. @KremlinRussia_E
All statistics and cases used for the Keeping Score campaign have been selected from the Case List.
CASE LIST 2013: RUSSIA
Profession: deputy chief editor of a leading independent weekly in Dagestan, Novoe Delo (New Action), and regular contributor to the Caucasian Knot online Details and date of death: He was murdered on 9 July 2013. He was known for reporting on corruption and human rights abuses in Dagestan. Akhmednabiev was shot to death outside his home in the village of Semender near the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala. Akhmednabiev had just started the engine of his car when the unidentified assailants opened fire. He died instantly. Investigation into murder: A criminal investigation is under way. The Russian authorities have stated that they believe the journalist’s murder is related to his reporting. Other information: The journalist survived a previous attempt on his life on 11 January 2013, when unidentified assailants shot at him three times but missed. He had received death threats in May 2012 and immediately reported them to police. Reportedly, law enforcement authorities did not effectively investigate either the threats or the subsequent shooting.
Natalia ESTEMIROVA (f):
Profession: journalist and human rights defender Date of birth: 28 February 1958 Details and date of death: Estemirova was abducted on 15 July 2009 as she left her home for her office in Grozny, and was later murdered. Her body was found in woodland in neighbouring Ingushetia. She had been shot in the head and chest. Estemirova’s work: Estemirova, of Russian-Chechen descent, worked at the Grozny office of Memorial, Russia’s best known non-governmental organisation. She investigated torture, killings and other abuses in Chechnya, and was the first recipient of the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award given by the Reach All Women in War campaigning group. Estemirova was also awarded for her courage by the Swedish and European parliaments. She worked with Politkovskaya from 2001 until 2006, exposing abuses carried out by Russian armed forces in Chechnya and by Moscow-backed Chechen officials. Investigation into murder: The then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev condemned the murder and ordered an inquiry. The Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov also called for those responsible to be brought to justice. Memorial has since closed its Grozny office, fearing for the safety of its staff. In late February 2010, the agency investigating Estemirova’s death confirmed that it had identified the murder suspect, who was said to be in hiding. Estemirova’s supervisor at Memorial told new agency Interfax that, after gaining access to some of the case’s investigative materials, it was discovered that the suspected murderer had already been killed. Russian investigators denied this. On 12 July 2010, the Moscow newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, published an article criticising the investigation for a series of flaws. These included a failure to interview key witnesses, a failure to thoroughly analyse DNA material collected from Estemirova’s body, and a failure to place at-risk witnesses under protection. The article also criticised the investigation for allegedly focusing on a single suspect who was already dead. In September 2010, Russian investigators, following a meeting with a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), pledged to pursue 19 cases or murdered journalists, of whom Estemirova is one. The investigators provided the delegation with the following update: authorities said they are trying to locate and arrest a Chechen guerrilla fighter who they allege murdered Estemirova. Investigators maintained that the suspect is alive and in Russia. They told CPJ that they have questioned Kadyrov, but found no evidence of his involvement. Independent investigation by Novaya Gazeta: an investigation carried out by Novaya Gazeta, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, and the International Federation for Human Rights, published on 15 July 2011, reiterated that the official investigation into Estemirova’s death had been mistaken in focusing its suspicion exclusively on the rebel Chechen leader Alkazur Bashayev. It reported that that the time of her murder Estemirova was working on a more sensitive case investigating the possible involvement of Chechen police officers in the public execution of local resident Rizvan Albekov. Estemirova was the first person to report on the killing. The report claimed that investigators inexplicably stopped pursuing the possible link between this case and the journalist’s murder in early 2010. Human Rights Watch claimed that “there were very strong circumstances around Estemirova’s murder that suggest that there could have been some official involvement.” Other information: The Chairman of the Memorial Centre, Oleg Orlov, is on trial on charge of slander against the Chechen president. He reportedly suggested that the Chechen president was responsible for Estemirova’s death. If convicted, Orlov could face up to three years in prison. [RAN 28/09 – 16 July 2009; Update #1 – 23 July 2009]
Profession: journalist and founder of the independent Dagestan-based weekly newspaper Chernovik Date of birth: 11 February 1965 Date and details of death: Shot dead by a masked assailant shortly before midnight on 15 December 2011. Kamalov was reportedly shot up to 14 times by the unidentified person as he was leaving the offices of Chernovik in Makhachkala, the capital of the southern republic of Dagestan. The gunman reportedly fled the scene in a car. Investigation into murder: The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office decided to take over the reportedly stalled investigation into the death of Khadzhimurad Kamalov on 28 May 2012. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists that the decision was made in response to a request by about 100 deputies in the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, that federal investigators take charge of the probe. Other information: There is a long history of harassment of the staff at Chernovik, with five of its journalists being arrested on reportedly trumped-up charges of “extremism” between 2008 and 2011. The newspaper has frequently addressed highly sensitive topics in the southern republic of Dagestan, in particular reports of police abuses in neighbouring Chechnya.
Profession: journalist and author Date of birth: 30 August 1958 Date and details of death: Shot dead in the elevator of her apartment on 7 October 2006 Work and death threats: Covered the war in Chechnya and had been receiving threats since 1999 after she wrote articles claiming that the Russian armed forces had committed human rights abuses in Chechnya. Despite these threats she continued to write and in 2003 published A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya. She was also a co-contributor to A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, published in 2003. Her most recent book, published in 2006, was Putin’s War: Life in A Failing Democracy. In 2002 Politkovskaya was one of the few outsiders allowed into a Moscow theatre in an attempt to negotiate with Chechen rebels the release of hundreds of hostages held there. In 2004, she fell seriously ill as she attempted to fly to Beslan to cover the hostage crisis there, leading to speculation that she had been deliberately poisoned to stop her from reporting on the crisis. Politkovskaya was the winner of numerous international awards for her courage, including the 2004 Olaf Palme Award that was set up by the family of the murdered Swedish prime minister. The prize was given to Politkovskaya to honour her work for the “long battle for human rights in Russia”. Investigation into murder: On 27 August 2007, the Prosecutor General announced that ten suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder including Chechen criminals, and former and serving members of the Russian Federal Security Services and police forces. On 18 June 2008, the Investigative Committee announced that it had charged three men, a former police officer and two ethnic Chechen brothers. Trial of perpetrators: On 17 November 2008, the trial of Politkovskaya’s alleged murderers began, at first open to the public, but then behind closed doors. On 19 February 2009, the men accused of assisting Politkovskaya’s murder were acquitted by a twelve-member jury for lack of evidence. After prosecutors appealed the not-guilty verdict, the Supreme Court overturned this decision and ordered a retrial. On 24 August 2011, Russian authorities arrested Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov in connection with the case and named convicted criminal Lom Ali Gaitukayev as the organiser of the murder. In December 2012, Pavlyuchenkov was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in a high security penal colony. Five other suspects, including three Chechen brothers – two of whom were acquitted by a jury back in 2009 – will be tried in separate proceedings. The three Makhmudov brothers, Rustam, Ibragim, and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, are charged as Politkovskaya’s immediate killers. Other suspects include Chechen underground leader Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who the official investigation now says was the main organiser of the killing and served as liaison between the masterminds and Pavlyuchenkov. Another suspect is Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, another former police officer who served at the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime at the time of the murder. Along with Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, Khadzhikurbanov was tried and acquitted of involvement in the crime back in 2009. He is considered an accomplice in the crime now. A pre-trial hearing took place on 3 June 2013. Honorary member: PEN Canada
Profession: blogger at Livejournal. He also contributed reporting to regional news outlets, including the website Yuzhnyi Federalnyi. His articles for the website criticised municipal and regional authorities and alleged widespread corruption and abuses Arrest: 26 November 2013 after his conviction Sentence: 18 months in prison in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Details of trial: Convicted of insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities. According to news reports, authorities filed charges against Reznik in November 2012. His trial opened in June 2013. The charges of insult reportedly stemmed from a series of articles posted on his blog in which Reznik accused the chairwoman of the Regional Arbitration Court of corruption and nepotism. The other two charges stemmed from Reznik’s reporting of threats against him to the police and allegedly bribing a car shop mechanic. Reznik is appealing the verdict. Other threats/attacks: According to the regional press, in February 2012 Reznik reported receiving threats by phone from anonymous people who demanded that he stop publishing his articles. On 22 October 2012, Reznik was attacked by two unidentified men outside his apartment building, beaten with baseball bats, then shot at with a pistol, according to news reports. Although not hit by gunfire, he suffered head and neck injuries from the beating and fell unconscious. According to Novaya Gazeta, authorities are currently investigating two other charges against Rezni.
Profession: online editor of the magazine Novy Fokus Details of trial: facing a fine of US$32,000 and a further punishment of hard labour if convicted of defaming police officer Colonel Alexander Zlotnikov. Prosecutors filed criminal insult and libel charges against the journalist on 14 March 2013 in connection with an article, published on 9 December 2012, in which the journalist claimed that the police officer lied about him in court. In October 2012, Zlotnikov alleged in court that Afanasyev had tried to obstruct an arrest: the journalist was arrested following the episode and charged with hooliganism. The charges were later dismissed. The day after the article was published, Zlotnikov filed a defamation complaint with the regional investigative committee in Khakassia, Siberia. Afanasyev was summoned for questioning and his home, office and car searched. Background: Afanasyev was charged with defamation in 2009 following his coverage of a high-profile explosion at a hydroelectric plant; the charges were dropped. The same year he was beaten up by two unknown assailants; the attack was never investigated.
Profession: journalist and gay rights activist Details of trial: facing a criminal libel case. According to reports, in August 2013, two members of the Russian Duma – Yelena Mizulina and Olga Batalina – asked for criminal libel proceedings to be brought against Alexyev following remarks made on the journalist’s Twitter account criticising Mizulina and Batalina for their support of a ban on disseminating “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. Alexyev reportedly faces a substantial fine on the grounds of insulting a representative of authority. He has reportedly been harassed by police since the politicians’ request. PEN is seeking further information. Background: In May 2012, Alexyev was the first person to be convicted of disseminating “gay propaganda” to minors in Russia. He was convicted under a new ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law that prohibits the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” that was first introduced in St Petersburg.
Profession: lawyer, political activist, blogger and runner-up in the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections Date of birth: 4 June 1976 Details of trial: charged with fraud and money laundering. In late October 2013, investigators charged Alexei and his brother Oleg of defrauding a Russian subsidiary of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher out of approximately US $811,000, and a Russian company, MPK, out of 4m roubles (approx. US $125,000). They also charged the brothers with laundering US $656,000. If found guilty, Navalny faces up to 10 years in prison. Previous charges and convictions: He was convicted of embezzling US$500,000 from a state-owned timber company while he was an advisor to the governor of the Kirov Oblast, and was handed a five year prison sentence by a local court in Kirov on 18 July 2013. Unusually, the Prosecutor’s Office requested his release and Navalny was freed the following day, pending the appeal of his sentence. The sentence was later suspended (on 16 October 2013) and Navalny is not allowed to run for political office for the foreseeable future. Further information: Navalny is a long-time critic of Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party; his criticisms often appear in his popular blog which he has used to organise large-scale demonstrations against corruption in Russia. He has also written articles in several Russian publications, such as Forbes Russia. In a 2011 interview with Reuters, he claimed that Putin’s political system is so weakened by corruption that Russia could face an Arab Spring-style revolt within five years. On 10 July, he registered as a candidate for the Moscow mayoral elections scheduled for 8 September 2013, and earlier had voiced his ambition to one day run for president. Throughout 2012 there were various investigations into Navalny’s financial affairs. Article 19 and Amnesty International have said that Navalny did not receive a fair trial and that the charges against him were politically-motivated.
Oksana CHELYSHEVA (f):
Profession: journalist, writer and human rights activist. She has been writing for Novaya Gazeta since 2001, and was Deputy Chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society from May 2003 to January 2007 (when the RCFS was shut down). Details of threats: Although no longer in Russia, she reports receiving threats via telephone and social media and harassment from individuals she believes are agents of the Russian state. (See also ‘Released’ below.)
*Aider MUZHDABAYEV, Georgy YANS:
Profession: editor and reporter respectively for the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets Details of threats: They were reportedly threatened by an MP from the ruling United Russia Party following an article published on 14 May 2013, entitled ‘Political Prostitution Changes its Gender.’ The article criticised three female members of the opposition for switching to the United Russia Party and for changing their views on the recent re-criminalisation of defamation in Russia (they had previously been against it). The MP Andrei Bayev said that “severe retaliation” awaited “a particular editor and author”, although he didn’t name them. It was believed in media circles that he was referring to Yans and Muzhdabayev.
Yekaterina SAMUTSEVICH (f):
Profession: member of Pussy Riot (see ‘Released’ below) Date of birth: 9 August 1982 Date of arrest: 16 March 2012 Date of release: 10 October 2012 Sentence: two years suspended Details of trial: charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred following a protest performance of the band’s ‘Punk Prayer’ on the altar of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February 2012. Trial proceedings opened on 20 July 2012. Convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred on 17 August 2012 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, which was commuted to a suspended sentence on appeal in October 2012. On 25 June 2013, Moscow City Court denied an appeal lodged against Samutsevich’s suspended prison sentence. Although the Court of Appeal accepted Samutsevich’s argument that she had not participated in the performance, Moscow City Court refused to quash her probation sentence. The court stated that it saw no grounds for mitigating or overturning the decision. At an appeal hearing on 15 October 2013, a court upheld the verdict against Samutsevich.
Mariya ALEKHINA (f), Profession: members of the ten-member female punk group Pussy Riot Sentence: two years in prison Date and details of arrest: Arrested for ‘hooliganism’ after storming the altar of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February 2012 in short dresses and colourful masks to sing a “punk prayer”. The lyrics of the song harshly condemn the then Russian Prime Minister, now President, Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Church. Tolokonnivova and Alekhina were arrested on 3 March. A third member, Ektarina Samutsevich, was arrested on 16 March (see above). The women say that although they are members of Pussy Riot, they were not those who staged the event. (Pussy Riot members perform wearing bright coloured balaclavas, hiding their identities.) Date and details of release: both were freed from prison in late December 2013, under a general amnesty granted by President Putin to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution. They were freed approximately three months before their two-year sentences were due to end. Details of trial: proceedings opened on 20 July 2012, and both were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred on 17 August 2012. Their convictions and sentences were upheld on appeal on 10 October 2012. Conditions of Imprisonment: The women were ordered to serve their terms in separate labour colonies. Alekhina was held in a labour colony in Perm; in May 2013 she announced that she would be going on hunger strike; she had been denied the right to appear at her own hearing. There were reports that she was taken to hospital in late May 2013. Tolokonnivova was first held in a labour colony in Mordovia, but was moved to solitary confinement in late September 2013 following her announcement (via an article written by her for the press) that she would going on hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions in prison. Tolokonnikova was moved to a new prison in late October 2013 by authorities who said that it was “for her personal safety”. They did not reveal her whereabouts until 12 November, by which time she had been transferred to another prison in Krasnoyarsk province, Siberia. After their release, the two women announced their intention to continue campaigning for human rights.
*Oksana CHELYSHEVA (f):
Profession: journalist, writer and human rights activist Details of trial: She has been writing for Novaya Gazeta since 2001, and was Deputy Chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society from May 2003 to January 2007 (when the RCFS was shut down).She was defending a 1,200 page monograph on human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic, alongside co-authors Stansilav Dmitriyevsky and Bogdan Guareli, (below). The lawsuit was lodged by the Prosecutor’s Office of Nizhny Novgorod to declare the publication extremist. The first hearing of the trial was held on 6 December 2012. There was another hearing on 24 June 2013. On 2 July 2013, Dzerzhinsk city court rejected the lawsuit. Other information: Awards: Amnesty International UK media award for “human rights journalism under threat” in 2006; 2014 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Free Expression Award.
Profession: writer, editor and human rights activist Details of trial: The prosecution sought to ban his 1,200-page monograph on human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic on grounds that its content was “extremist” in nature. Co-authors are Oksana Chelysheva (f) (see above) and Bogdan Guareli (see below). The first hearing of the trial was held on 6 December 2012. Another was held on 24 June 2013. On 2 July 2013, Dzerzhinsk city court rejected the lawsuit. Background: PEN has been closely following developments with Dmitriyevsky since 2005. He has faced numerous legal challenges, threats and attacks as a consequence of his writings and work as an activist. In January 2005, the Federal Security Bureau initiated a criminal investigation into his human rights organisation, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), and charged Dmitriyevsky with “inciting hatred between national groups by use of the mass media”. Simultaneously, an investigation into the finances of the RCFS was carried out by the Tax Department and the Ministry of Justice; there was also an anonymous smear campaign against Dmitriyevsky and RCFS members (particularly Oksana Chelysheva), giving their home addresses and dubbing them Chechen-funded traitors. In response to the situation, PEN took on Dmitriyevsky as a main case and, following an extensive campaign, he was able to escape imprisonment with a two-year suspended sentence and four years of probation. Shortly after the end of this trial (January 2007), the RCFS was shut down by the Russian authorities as a consequence of Dmitriyevsky’s conviction. Since then, Dmitriyevsky has been allegedly subjected to intermittent harassment by police officers (when his offices were raided in March 2007 and 2008) and unknown assailants (in August 2008, a brick was thrown through his apartment window and his building was covered with abusive graffiti; between March and November 2012 his offices and home were subjected to attacks of arson, vandalism and attempted forced entry on no less than three occasions).
Profession: researcher and writer Details of trial: He was defending a 1,200 page monograph on human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic, alongside co-authors Stanislav Dmitriyevsky and Oksana Chelysheva, in a trial to ban the book due to its “extremist” content. The first hearing of the trial was held on 6 December 2012. Another was held on 24 June 2013. On 2 July 2013, Dzerzhinsk city court rejected the lawsuit.