Today, a Russian court sentenced Anastasiya Shevchenko to a 4-year suspended sentence for affiliation with an “undesirable organization.” While it’s a relief that Shevchenko won’t should serve prison time, this completely unjust ruling exemplifies the persecution civic activists continue to face in Russia.
Shevchenko spent two years under home arrest and can now have a criminal record – all for merely taking part in a public discussion and a peaceable protest, which the authorities are equating with a menace to constitutional order and national security.
The court ruled her activities were linked to a banned foreign organization, Open Russia Civic Movement (ORCM). Under a highly controversial Russian regulation, as soon as designated “undesirable,” a overseas or worldwide group should stop all actions in Russia and anybody deemed to have affiliation could be held criminally liable.
Russian authorities accuse pro-democracy motion ORCM of being tied to a company registered in the UK underneath the identical identify and designated “undesirable” in 2017; ORCM activists insisted they haven’t any affiliation with this group. In 2019, ORCM introduced it will stop actions, however that didn’t forestall the authorities from opening new legal circumstances towards its supporters.
In a statement during her trial, Shevchenko said she never denied her participation in the Open Russia movement and was pleased with it, because she at all times lived openly, wants open dialogue between society and the authorities, helps free and honest elections, and needs her kids to reside in a country the place human rights are protected.
The sentence comes with a 4-year probation period, during which if Shevchenko is found guilty of any administrative offence, no matter how petty, her suspended sentence will be replaced with a prison time.
Sadly, the verdict against Shevchenko is a part of a much broader crackdown, in which the authorities are attacking what little house remains for civil society and dissenting voices in Russia through a barrage of new laws, harassment and intimidation, and prosecutions against civic activists. Today’s verdict is the third such sentence against entirely peaceful Open Russia activists. One other person indicted on the same charges is in pretrial detention, whereas others await or are at risk of prosecution on these disgraceful charges.
The authorities should immediately and unconditionally vacate Shevchenko’s politically motivated verdict and repeal the repressive “undesirables” law.