The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Petr Parpulov
Petr Parpulov was born in 1955. A resident of the city of Sochi. From the 1980s to his detention in 2014, he worked as an air traffic control officer at the airport in Sochi although he had already reached pensionable age. He was sentenced to 12 years in a strict-regime penal colony under Article 275 (‘High treason’) of the Russian Criminal Code for divulging unidentified classified information that was nonetheless published in the newspaper ‘Krasnaya Zvezda’ (‘Red Star’) and therefore available to the general public. Parpulov has been in custody since March 4, 2014. Parpulov is recognized as a political prisoner, since the prosecution is carried out on charges of an offense. The charges in the case are baseless, and the process was carried out amid disproportionately strict detention measures and a violation of the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Parpulov allegedly shared state secrets with individuals in Georgia in 2010, who then shared them with the Georgian Government. By doing this, according to the FSB, Parpulov harmed the interests of the Russian Federation. Parpulov didn’t admit guilt: he stated that the information that he had provided in a conversation with his relatives in Georgia was published on a website of the “Red Star” newspaper and was publicly available.
The progress and the results of the investigation were classified. Even after the indictment, the investigation did not release to the defense the criteria of information constituting a state secret, which Parpulov allegedly shared, stating that the criteria are also classified.
Grounds for recognition as a political prisoner
Parpulov did not have access to state secrets and nor had connections with the military industry. In this case, the information that became known to him was either not state secret at all or was transferred to him as a result of another person’s crime. However, no one is held accountable, although Parpulov directly indicated which website he received the information from.
Parpulov had no reason to believe that the information he disclosed was a state secret, since he got it from open sources. According to his lawyer, this topic was mostly covered by the official media of the Ministry of Defense called “Red Star”.
Also, the court did not indicate in a verdict a motive for disclosing information by Parpulov (commercial, ideological, etc.), which makes the allegations even less logical.
The defendant’s right to a fair trial and other legally guaranteed rights were violated. During the investigation, Parpulov and his lawyer were denied to study the criteria of information constituting a state secret, which Parpulov allegedly disclosed.
The Parpulov case has become one of a number of criminal cases massively instituted in 2013-2015 under Article 275 (“High Treason”) and Article 276 (“Espionage”) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in a framework of a corresponding campaign (among them the cases of Yekaterina Kharebava, Svetlana Davydova, Yuri Soloshenko, etc.). A lack of common sense in those charges, and prosecution of people who did not have access to classified information make it possible to talk about a trend of a political motive in those cases.
According to information from the Judicial Department of the Russian Supreme Court, in 2014 a number of convicted individuals under an article on treason increased by 4 times compared to a previous year. 9 out of 15 convicted under this article received a sentence of over 10 years. Such a sharp increase in “spyware” sentences is a result of intentionally targeted state policy and propaganda, creating a wartime atmosphere in society, accompanied by a search for the “fifth column” and “enemies of state”. To maintain this atmosphere, new criminal cases against “spies” and “traitors to the Motherland” are required. As a result, activities of law enforcement agencies and special services are directed to a fabrication of criminal cases and artificial criminalization of completely legal actions of citizens.
As of February 2015, during his prison sentence, Parpulov was diagnosed with third-degree hypertension with a fourth-degree risk, chronic third-degree heart failure, bradycardia, extrasystole, inguinal hernia, and chronic gastroduodenitis.