“Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets.” – the Article 31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation stipulates.
However, the new law entered into force in July 2014 proposed by Vladimir Putin that had criminalized repeated participation in the single pickets.
“Violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket if this act is committed repeatedly, –
Shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of six hundred thousand to one million rubles, or in the amount of the wage or other income of the convicted person for a period of two to three years, or by compulsory labor for a term of up to four hundred and eighty hours, or correctional labor for a term of from one to two years, either forced labor for up to five years or imprisonment for the same term.” – Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Law states. This would, presumably, mean that articles contravened each other and thus, inconvenienced the detainees in the court.
The most notorious cases of such a prosecution that happened in Russia are:
Ildar Dadin case.
Back in 2015 a Russian opposition activist – Ildar Dadin, who is a first-person convicted in Russia for repeated one-person pickets was sentenced for three years in prison. He, originally, participated in plenty of peaceful opposition rallies and pickets since 2011, spanning four years. He was arrested multiple times by law enforcement agencies and held responsible for the administrative law breach.
The first time Ildar met the police impunity was on the 7th of May 2012 when he had been detained for joining the protest against the confinement of “Bolotnaya Demonstration” activists. Dadin became widely known only after the Basmanny court has sentenced him for 3 years of prison. According to the authorities, Ildar Dadin was accused of participating in two protests within 180 days.
“The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International. And futhermore, Amnesty International has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.
Dadin has served the sentence in the penal colony in Karelia where he was sent back in 2016 and where he was constantly tortured and beaten. Luckily for him, the letter that had been intended to his wife and attorney was published and caused a public outcry. Later that year, the investigation was initiated, but no avail. Surveillance cameras in the prison were destroyed and “independent” doctors did not discover any signings of beatings.
In 2017 Dadin appealed to the court for the amnesty, supporting his request with a clear contradiction of the Art. 212,1 of the Criminal Code with Constitution. Obviously, the court refused such a request but proposed to quash the case after creating an amendment by the Russian Parliament. On February 26th Ildar Dadin was released from prison after spending there more than a year for expressing political position in peaceful pickets.
Two peaceful protesters detention. Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay
On the May 7th 2015 Russian Court has sentenced two protesters to ten days of custody. The background of this case dates back to the Bolotnaya square in 2012 when Anti-Putin protesters have been beaten severely by police. Numerous people were imprisoned after unjust trials and biased judges. Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay both are political activists and supporters of those detainees since the event in Bolotnaya Square.
Police officers who have arrested them testified that protesters were shouting “anti-fascist” and to “free the political prisoners” slogans, ironically, video footage from this single-person picket proved the opposite – protesters were staying in silence respecting the law.
The lawlessness that the Russian government demonstrates and exercises is provoking people to come out and to demand what is guaranteed by their Constitution, but instead of consensus, they are arrested and turned into fellons.
Konstantin Kotov case
On the 5th of September, civil activist Konstantin Kotov was sentenced to 4 years in prison for the repeated “violation” of the aforementioned “Dadinskaya” article 212.1..
All five episodes that were a reporter in the legal case have a similar profile – peaceful protest or picket, accompanied by fine or detention. During the trial, the prosecutor was requesting to sentence Kotov for 4,5 years in prison. The court decision was perceived by activists present in the courtroom extremely indignantly. Hundreds of protesters were pushed back from the court building by “OMON” police vans and officers. It seems to be a fear of people after an unfair sentence.
Arrest and persecution of Dmitrii Lutsenko
On September 29th 2019 an opposition activist Dmitrii Lutsenko was arrested. He held a single picket authorized by the constitution with the banner “FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN RUSSIA — FREEDOM TO BE BEATEN”.
The police immediately detained him. After he was taken to the police station, he was interrogated, beaten and threatened.
After numerous threats and episodes of persecution, the activist continued to participate in solitary pickets.
Only during the year 2018 there were recorded 102 arrests during single-person pickets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. This number doubled in comparison with data from the years 2017 and 2016 with 66 and 61 detentions respectively.
This year, on the March 14 Moscow police violently dispersed solitary pickets against political repressions in Russia. The pickets started at approximately 2 p.m. and, just in a few minutes, the police announced that the action was not authorized. After the announcement, the police illegally detained all the solitary picketers who participated in the action. Some of the protesters also spoke out against the proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution, which, if adopted, would among other things allow Russia’s current President to stay in power until 2036. Overall, about 100 protesters attended the protest. Police also disperse smaller protests in Saint-Petersburg and other cities in Russia. The police officers used disproportional physical force against the picket participants. Police officers were wearing masks and had no identification signs. They did not explain the reasons for detentions, and used brute physical force against those who refused to get escorted to the police detention vans. After providing the arrests, police buses took the protesters to the different police stations.
The figures point to the conclusion that the Russian government is afraid of free people and a freedom of speech, it hides behind the hundreds of thousands of police soldiers and laws which violate the Constitution and may never be above it!