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Are Prisoners of Conscience Only in Moscow?

Boris Vishnevskys blog at the Ekho Moskvy web-site
March 5, 2011

It is already a week since the activists of YABLOKO and the Environmental Watch on Northern Caucasus Eugene Vitishko, Suren Gazaryan, Dmitry Shevchenko detained by the country cottage (which in their view was unlawfully constructed on public lands of Russias forestry fund) of the Governor of the Krasnodar Area Alexander Tkachyov on February 27 have been under administrative arrest in the Tuapse prison.

YABLOKOs activists beaten during their detention (policemen broke nose to Suren Gazaryan), were sentenced to imprisonment from 5 to 10 days for alleged "disobeying the orders of the police."

Zufar Achilov, activist of the Environmental Watch on Northern Caucasus who was detained together with them was released on March 4 (as his 5-day imprisonment term expired), he told about unbearable conditions in which detainees are contained.

According Achilov, virtually all the prisoners rights were violated in this prison: right to a walk, right to have bedclothes, to use toilet, to receive parcels from families and so on. The night of their arrest they were not even allowed to have water and call a doctor. The cells, according to Achilov, "remind of Inquisition dungeons, they are dark, without artificial or natural light, the prisoners are not allowed to use toilet even in the morning, food is disgusting (despite statements made [by the authorities] that RUR 400 [USD 13] are allotted for maintenance of each prisoner per day). Now, according to Achilov, Dmitry Shevchenko is running high temperature (38 degrees), he is coughing typically of pneumonia, and Gazaryan has approximately the same high temperature too. Protesting against such conditions of detention and unjust verdict of imprisonment Gazaryan, Shevchenko and Vitishko went on a hunger strike; whereas there is no doctor in this jail.

Joint actions by YABLOKOs activists and environmentalists protesting against the arrest of YABLOKOs activists have been held in Krasnodar, Tuapse, Moscow and St. Petersburg all these days. The World Wildlife Fund appealed to the Minister of Interior Rashid Nurgaliyev demanding an official investigation of the actions of police officers involved in the attack against the environmentalists stating "it is striking that the authorities chose a violent unlawful way of resolution of the problems accumulated in the region" ...

When Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin and Konstantine Kosyakin were detained at Triumphalnaya square in Moscow on New Year's Eve, and court sentenced them to an unlawful arrest from 5 to 15 days, a huge number of people spoke in their defence, whereas YABLOKOs leaders were among the first to protest against this arrest.

Nemtsov, Yashin and Kosyakin (as well as Eduard Limonov detained by his house) were regarded as "prisoners of conscience", the media were continuously writing and speaking about them, they had incessant visitors and they were brought parcels, huge attention was attracted to their arrest.

However, the conditions in which my friends and colleagues from YABLOKO held in the Tuapse jail are many times worse and more humiliating than those the aforementioned "Moscow prisoners" were in. But no one hurries to recognise Gazaryan, or Shevchenko, or Vitishko a "prisoner of conscience." No prominent public or political figures speak in their defence. Their arrest does not outrage U.S. senators and European parliamentarians. Finally, we do not hear anything about public speeches by Nemtsov or Yashin on this topic. Maybe I have missed something. Or maybe they are silent because its will be improper after this to habitually claim that YABLOKO in contrast to them is not an opposition?

However, for everyone who wants to stand up for my friends, there is still time: Suren Gazaryan and Dmitry Shevchenko should be released on March 6, and Eugeny Vitishko on March 9.

See also:

Human Rights

Protection of Environment

YABLOKOs activists get imprisonment verdicts, Press Release, February 28, 2011

WWF demands from the Interior Minister to investigate the circumstances of the arrest of ecologists by Governors dacha. Press Release, March 4, 2011.

Young YABLOKO activists hang a banner “Freedom to Political Prisoners!” opposite of the Kremlin. Press Release, March 3, 2011.

Friendly Oligarch Buys 'Putin' Palace . The Moscow Times, March 4, 2011.

YABLOKO - Aktivisten inhaftiert. Liberales Forum. Redaktion, 28.02.2011


March 5, 2011

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