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Startseite Urgent Actions 2015 10 Prosecuted for critizising government Trial against government critic continues
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Abgeschlossen am 23. Februar 2016
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29.1.2106: News

The trial against Yekaterina Vologzheninova has been adjourned until 17 February.

The judge initially tried to rush the final hearing, which would not have allowed enough time for the defence lawyer to prepare. However, it is believed that the public attention on the case influenced the judge’s decision to adjourn the next hearing until 17 February.

Please continue taking action on the basis of this UA update as the calls continue to be relevant.

Many thanks for all your support.

Trial against government critic continues

AI-Index: EUR 46/3179/2016

The trial against Yekaterina Vologzheninova will continue on 21 January. She faces the charge of «inciting hatred or enmity», which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, for her posts on social media criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Yekaterina Vologzheninova, a shop assistant from Yekaterinburg, faces the charge of «inciting hatred or enmity» for her online criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military involvement in Donbass, eastern Ukraine. Since the start of her trial on 27 October, three hearings have taken place and three of the prosecution’s five witnesses have been questioned.

One of the prosecution’s witnesses, Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s former colleague, withdrew the statement he had given during the investigation and said that a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer «had perverted his words». The other two witnesses were staff members of Roskomnadzor (the official media and communications watchdog) and had been present during the search of Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s flat in December 2014. They claimed that Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s posts on social media insulted their feelings as citizens of the Russian Federation and were «aimed against the country’s citizens and its government». However, they could not confirm that her posts were aimed at specific ethnic groups – which is an element of the crime Vologzheninova is accused of. The prosecution’s two remaining witnesses, an FSB officer who had conducted a search in her flat, and a woman Yekaterina Vologzheninova had never heard of, failed to attend the hearings and the court ordered that they should be brought to court by bailiffs. The trial against Yekaterina Vologzheninova will continue on 21 January.

In the current political climate in Russia, politically-motivated trials in cases like that of Yekaterina Vologzheninova are increasingly common.

Yekaterina Vologzheninova is the only provider for her teenage daughter and elderly mother.

On 12 October, Rosfinmonitoring (the federal agency responsible for combating money laundering and terrorism financing) included Yekaterina Vologzheninova in its List of Terrorists and Extremists. This has led to the blocking of her bank accounts and cards. She tried unsuccessfully to contest this decision in the Zheleznodorozhny District Court in Yekaterinburg. The court agreed with Rosfinmonitoring and took the view that being tried under «extremism» charges is sufficient for her inclusion in the List of Terrorists and Extremists.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian forces and armed groups supported by Russia in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, in April 2014, several people have been sentenced in Russia for allegedly inciting hatred and enmity on the Internet in connection with posts that criticised Russia’s policy towards Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The number of Internet users who have faced prosecution for their peaceful but critical views on Russia’s current politics is growing. Article 280 («public calls to commit extremist activities») and Article 282 («publicly inciting hatred or enmity as well as denigrating human dignity») of the Russian Criminal Code are being increasingly used to silence dissent, and particularly those who criticise the official policy in relation to Ukraine.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 34, on the right to freedom of expression, states that «it encompasses even expression that may be regarded as deeply offensive». In any event, criminal sanctions for private social media posts would be excessive and disproportionate under international human rights standards, infringing on the right to freedom of expression.
On 12 December 2014, Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s apartment was searched by law enforcement officials and she was taken to the police station for questioning. She then learned that a criminal case against her had been opened under Article 282, part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code, in connection with her posts on social networks. During the investigation of her case, the authorities solicited «psycholinguistic expertise» to analyse her postings and questioned her colleagues and other acquaintances in an attempt to prove that her motivation had been specifically to incite hatred. The investigation concluded that Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s intention by criticizing the government’s policies online (with only her friends) had been to incite hatred against the Russian government and the Russians fighting in eastern Ukraine. Yekaterina Vologzheninova’s posts included content from Ukrainian sources, including a satirical cartoon depicting a man – with some remote likeness to President Vladimir Putin – with a knife in his hand over a map of Donbass. His hand is being stopped by another hand and the text under the image reads «Stop the pest!» She also posted some poems and statements in which Russians are described as «eternal slaves – body and soul», as having «brains of chicken», and state that those who fight in Donbass follow a «bloody covenant».
Yekaterina Vologzheninova told Amnesty International that her account on VKontakte was not public and only accessible to friends. She browsed Ukrainian media because she was looking for alternative information to that provided by the state-controlled television and other media in Russia, and shared some publications from Ukraine on her personal page. The investigation claimed that the «likes» under some of her online posts indicated that she did incite hatred via these posts.
For several months in 2014, she was subscribed to the email list of the Ukrainian nationalist group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), an organization which was banned in Russia in November 2014 as extremist. The investigation claimed that Yekaterina Vologzheninova was a member of Pravy Sektor, something she vehemently denies.
In late September 2015 the case was forwarded to the Zheleznodorozhnyi Court in Yekaterinburg.

Name: Yekaterina Edvardovna Vologzheninova

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