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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Anna Pavlikova and Konstantin Kotov

Oct 18 2019

Today, we’d like to remind people who respect human rights once again about The Kremlin’s political prisoners. The very fact people are imprisoned in today’s Russia for their political and religious beliefs shouldn’t be tolerated by the world.

There is a bittersweet development we believe is important to write about today. Yesterday, Konstantin Kotov, 34, imprisoned under the “Moscow case,” married a 19-year-old suspected extremist, Anna Pavlikova, at Moscow’s infamous Matrosskaya Tishina jail.

A brief ceremony was at the holding center where Konstantin Kotov awaits transfer to a penal colony.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has recognized Anna Pavlikova and Konstantin Kotov as political prisoners.

Anna Pavlikova was born on 27 March 2000. A resident of the city of Moscow, she completed secondary education and worked as a veterinary attendant. She was charged with creating an extremist group, “New Greatness,” (Novoe Velichie) in December 2017, allegedly for the purposes of the violent overthrow of the government and constitutional order of Russia (Article 282.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). Anna Pavlikova was held in custody from March 15 to August 16 2018 when she was placed under house arrest.

Having attentively studied the materials of the New Greatness case, the Human Rights Centre Memorial has concluded that this group was, essentially, set up by Russian security services. It was them who strove to give the organization an extremist character.

With the help of Ruslan D., evidently an agent of the law enforcement agencies (probably the FSB), the security services themselves drew up the charter and program of the New Greatness in such a way that it appeared to be an extremist organization. They also rented an office for the group that was bugged. When Anna Pavlikova left the group because of a quarrel, the agent persuaded her to return. However, one month later she was arrested. Pavlikova has since spent six months in pre-trial detention, with serious injury to her health.

Despite the efforts of the provocateurs, the political program, charter and leaflets of the New Greatness contain no specific statements or provisions indicating that its members intend to overthrow the government by violent means or change the constitutional order of Russia by violence. Texts published on the organization’s website contain no direct calls to violence.

Konstantin Kotov, a 34-year-old computer programmer and civic activist, was detained not far from his home and taken to the Moscow headquarters of the Investigative Committee on the evening of August 12, 2019. Kotov was charged with an offence under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code “Repeated violation of the regulations for organizing a public assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket”, and his apartment was searched at night without a court order.

On August 15, 2019 Kotov’s lawyer, Maria Eismont, reported that the case investigator had informed her the investigation was completed and the case was sent to court. The unprecedentedly short preliminary investigation in this case therefore took less than 50 hours. Moreover, the next day the judge Abramova restricted the time for Kotov and his lawyer to study the materials in the criminal case. In other words, the judge allotted 72 hours for examination of the four volumes of the criminal case, of which 48 hours fell on a weekend, thereby still further restricting Kotov’s right to a legal defense.

Kotov received four-year prison sentence for taking part in three protests in support of political prisoners, calling in a Facebook post for people to join a protest on Trubnaya Square on 19 July 2019 against opposition candidates being prevented from standing in the upcoming elections to Moscow city assembly, and taking part in a protest walk on 10 August 2019 after the rally that day against political repression and for the registration of independent candidates in the Moscow city assembly elections.

The very fact of prosecution under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which is unconstitutional and in violation of legal norms, gives grounds to conclude the prosecution of Konstantin Kotov is unlawful and politically motivated. Article 212.1, like Article 20.2, Section 8, of the Russian Administrative Law Code “Repeated violation by a participant in a public event of the established regulations for holding a picket”, contradicts fundamental legal principles and is intended to restrict freedom of assembly and force government critics to cease their public activity.

Political motivation of the Kotov’s prosecution is shown by the fact that the peaceful protest, in which he took part of, were against the policies of the current authorities, and his prosecution took place amid a sharp increase in repressive measures against participants in peaceful demonstrations and rallies. The little time in which the preliminary investigation was conducted (and during which Kotov was not given a single minute of confidential communication with his lawyer) made a mockery of due process. Moreover, it made clear the authorities intend to use the Kotov case as a precedent to put pressure on the organizers of, and participants in, Moscow protests against the refusal to register independent candidates in the upcoming assembly elections.

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