The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Yuly Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov
Memorial Human Rights Center (HRC), in accordance with the international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has recognized Yuly Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov as political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that the criminal charges against them for alleged involvement in a terrorist group be dropped.
Anti-fascist activists from St. Petersburg Yuly Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov have been charged under Article 205.4, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Participation in a terrorist group’, punishable by up to 10 years in prison), on grounds they were allegedly members of the Network, an organization banned in Russia on April 8, 2019, and declared to be terrorist. According to the investigators, the Network is an association of terrorists and anarchists. Boyarshinov has also been charged with committing a crime under Article 222.1, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Unlawful possession of explosive materials,’ punishable by up to five years’ deprivation of liberty). Boyarshinov and Filinkov have been held in custody since January 21 and 23, 2018 respectively.
From the very beginning, the prosecution of St. Petersburg anti-fascists took place amid ongoing scandals and accusations of torture against the regional FSB offices in St. Petersburg and Leningradskaya Oblast. Members of the Public Oversight Commission Yana Teplitskaya and Ekaterina Kosarevskaya documented numerous facts of gross violations of human rights by the FSB. The torture of Viktor Filinkov, Yuly Boyarshinov and a third defendant in the criminal case, Igor Shishkin, was documented in their report in detail. Similarly, the forms of violence and abuse were described for Boyarshinov and Filinkov who were subjected to torture at the Gorelovo Pre-Trial Facility No. 6, which has a reputation of being “torturous”, after their detention. Furthermore, almost all the suspects in the Penza case concerning the banned Network organization also reported brutal torture.
Although the investigators tweaked their description of the actions of the accused to fit the definition ‘terrorism,’ there is in fact total absence of any danger to the public in the actions of Boyarshinov and Filinkov related to their participation in a group that has been designated as terrorist. Guilty pleas in this case were, based on the known facts, obtained by means of torture, which makes them inadmissible in a court of law.
The defendants have not, in fact, been accused in committing a violent or a terrorist acts or in attempting to commit such acts. The crimes that the members of the ‘terrorist’ group allegedly intended to commit (as it’s mentioned in the formal indictment) do not include offences listed under Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Act of terrorism’). Filinkov’s defense lawyer has in particular pointed out that after his client’s detention, the FSB asserted that the Network’s members had prepared acts of terror to take place at the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018. However, all reference to those accusations has been removed from the formal indictment.
Yuly Boyarshinov, who has pleaded guilty, emphasizes that the purpose of the training and association in the framework of the Network was no other than self-defense in case of attack by radical nationalists during possible disorders, and was not a preparation to seize control of any buildings. The accusation that Boyarshinov possessed 403,9 gr of black powder has no relation to the charge of participating in an allegedly ‘terrorist’ group: the investigation, despite of all its bias, did not seek to charge Boyarshinov with attempts to use this powder to carry out acts of terror. After all, Viktor Filinkov, judging by the case materials we have seen and the testimony of Boyarshinov in court, had only minimal connection with the Network. He was prosecuted only because he communicated with some of the defendants and because his wife had taken part in a number of meetings at which he was not present.
The political motive for prosecution of the St. Petersburg anti-fascists is clear. The prosecution is a part of a series of continuous repressive measures against anarchists and anti-fascists that sharply increased since 2017-2018. The authorities have sought to create the image of anarchists as people who are a danger to the public, complicit in terrorism and attempting to destabilize society and the political system. The detained anarchists were routinely and blatantly tortured. In the same time, authorities are seeking to suppress all non-systemic, informal self-organized groups, especially of young people.
Memorial HRC at the moment cannot recognize the third defendant in the case, Igor Shishkin, as a political prisoner because he has full plead guilty, and it has not been possible to access the materials of the case. Nonetheless, it can be said with confidence that Shishkin is either fully or partly innocent and that he was subjected to torture during the preliminary investigation. They believe Shishkin’s case must be reviewed, and the cases of those charged with membership in the Network in Penza must be impartially investigated. All law enforcement officers involved in torturing the defendants must be brought to justice.