Navalny Volunteer Sentenced to Two Years for Social Media Post

September 18, 2017

Today Alexey Mironov, a volunteer at Alexey Navalny’s local Chuvashia headquarters, has been sentenced to two years and three months in a prison colony.  His crime was reposting two memes on Russian social media site VKontakte which had been deleted long before the investigation began.

Valentina Dekhtarenko of the Open Russia Human Rights team has been closely following the case as it unfolded, and has produced this summary of events:

Last summer Alexey was fined for posting a picture on his personal social media page of Vladimir Putin alongside a swastika.  Alexey subsequently deleted the post, but the Chuvashia police has already obtained a screenshot.

A year later police raided Alexey’s apartment, and even his grandmother’s apartment, before bringing him before the FSB and informing him that he was to be prosecuted by article 282 (incitement of hatred) and 280 (extremist activity) of the Russian Criminal Code.  Both articles are obscure in their definitions and are commonly brought up by the authorities in order to prosecute citizens for expressing ‘undesirable’ opinions.  Before the trial Alexey was officially added to Russia terrorist list under the number 4564 and was forbidden from leaving the country.

Four witnesses came forward to testify against Alexey.  One of them was a member of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (what a coincidence), who supposedly came across the post by accident and decided to alert the FSB immediately.  Interestingly, he did not appear in court.  The second witness also accidentally came across the post and immediately made the same complaint as the first.  In court the second witness admitted to having connections to the FSB, and also that he has no idea what “VKontakte” is and does not even know how to turn on the internet.  The other two witnesses are actual FSB agents.

The testimony signed by the witnesses mentioned that the phrase “I officially call for the violent overthrow of the government” is being interpreted as an active attempt.  This element helped the prosecution invoke article 280 for incitement of hatred, and 283 (extremism) was invoked thanks to linguistic expertise.  “Experts” found 40 different definitions of the word “Muslim” and chose 3 of them which conveniently fit the terms of the article.

So now, on the basis of unreliable and questionable witnesses, a young man has been sentenced to spend more than two years of his life in a Russian prison colony for no more than expressing his opinion on social media.  Whether you consider Mironov’s opinions to be ‘undesirable’ or not, locking someone up for expressing their opinion sets a dangerous precedent for the future of freedom of expression in Russia.

Open Russia, on the basis of generous public donations, managed to provide Alexey Mironov with a legal defence through the Open Russia Human Rights team, and provided constant informational and legal support.  To join the struggle against human rights abuses in Russia, please consider supporting the team here.

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