The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Ivan Lyubshin
The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Ivan Lyubshin, a resident of Kaluga, as a political prisoner. The criminal case against him should be closed, he should be immediately released, and his allegations of torture should be objectively investigated.
On October 31, 2018, Lyubshin shared the news on his personal page on VKontakte about the self-detonation of 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky inside the FSB office in Arkhangelsk, accompanying the post with his comments about the personality of the deceased.
Those comments became the reason for opening a criminal prosecution against Lyubshin. Almost a year later, on October 14, 2019, a criminal case was opened against Lyubshin under Part 2 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (‘Public justification of terrorism and propaganda of terrorism, committed using the Internet’.)
On the morning of October 15, 2019, Lyubshin was detained by FSB officers at a bus stop. According to Lyubshin, the security forces put him in a car, handcuffed him, took him into a forest where kicked and beat him with a stun gun. Then they took him for interrogation to the local Investigative Committee. On October 17, the Kaluga District Court put Lyubshin under house arrest.
Subsequently, doctors recorded “multiple bruises” on Lyubshin’s legs, arms, shoulder, ear, back and near the waist, but first the Kaluga prosecutor’s office and then the Investigative Committee of Russia refused to initiate a criminal case against the FSB officers who tortured Lyubshin.
On December 25, 2019, Lyubshin was released on recognizance not to leave the hometown.
On March 5, 2020, the 2nd Western District Military Court found Lyubshin guilty under Part 2 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to five years and two months in a regular regime colony with a ban on the administration of websites for two years.
Lyubshin’s choice as a subject of the criminal prosecution could have been influenced by his political views, by having Kaluga opposition activists among his friends on social networks, and a fact that he was previously related to the Orthodox Church alternative to the Moscow Patriarchate.
Obviously, the Lyubshin’s persecution was based on a fact that he has long come to an attention of the security service. In 2017, he was sentenced to a fine of 400.000 rubles under Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code (‘Incitement to hatred or enmity’) and Part 2 of Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code (‘Rehabilitation of Nazism using the media’.) In addition, Lyubshin was accused under Paragraph “B” of Part 3 of Article 242 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (‘Distribution of pornography using the media’), but he was acquitted by the court.
Why does the Memorial Human Right Center consider Lyubshin a political prisoner?
Lyubshin is not accused of calling for terrorist attacks or other violent actions. His persecution is solely based on a few careless comments on his personal page, which has a small audience. Those comments contained no explicit incitement to violence and posed little, if any, public danger. Moreover, by the time the criminal case was initiated, they had already been removed by Lyubshin. His case should be viewed in a context of a persecution of oppositionists, journalists, publicists, or even random people who joined in a discussion of reasons and nature of the act of suicide, as well as a personality of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who blew himself up in the building of the Arkhangelsk FSB.
Conclusions of experts of which the court referred to when passing a verdict, did not answer a question at all whether there were signs of a criminal justification of terrorism in Lyubshin’s actions. Thus, justification of terrorism has not been proven at all by the standards of a criminal procedure.
The data at the disposal of the Memorial Human Right Center allows to assert that after the arrest Lyubshin was subjected to torture, which has already become a signature instrument in “terrorist” cases investigated by the FSB. Thus, the forensic medical examination recorded numerous hematomas and bruises on Lyubshin’s body “near the auricle, on the wrists, on the right elbow, left shoulder, chest, ribs, lower back and right leg.”
The Memorial Human Rights Center, according to the international guidelines on the definition of a “political prisoner”, believes that this criminal case is politically motivated, aimed at involuntarily stopping criticism of the state power. The deprivation of liberty applied to Ivan Lyubshin is clearly inadequate to the actual actions he is accused of committing, given the combination of the dubiousness of the charges, the disproportionate prosecution of possible public danger and the serious violation of his rights.