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Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
ul. B. Dmitrovka, d.15a
125993 Moscow GSP- 3
I would like to express to you my deep concern about the situation of Sergei Nikiforov and Rafis Kashapov.
Sergei Nikiforov is an Evenki indigenous people’s leader and environmental rights defender. He has been convicted and sentenced to four years of imprisonment for opposing a gold mining project in the Amur region, in Russia’s Far East, after an unfair trial. Sergei Nikiforov is a respected member of his local community and under his leadership the village has grown and flourished. He is a prisoner of consciousness and should be released immediately.
Rafis Kashapov is a Tatar activist and outspoken government critic. He was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “instigating hatred” for criticizing the Russian government’s policies towards Ukraine on the social network VKontakte. Rafis Kashapov should be released immediately and unconditionally, as he is imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
I therefore hereby ask for both of them to be immediately and unconditionally released.
On 29 September 2015, Sergei Nikiforov was sentenced to five years in a prison camp and a fine of 16 million roubles on charges with bribery and fraud by a court in Blagoveshchensk, in the Amur region. On 8 December, the sentence was reduced on appeal to 4 years and the fine was reduced to 3 million roubles. The charges relate to a building project that he commissioned in 2012 from an engineering firm. Despite receiving payment in advance, the firm never carried out the works and in September 2013 Sergei Nikiforov lodged two complaints against the firm for fraud and bribery. His complaints were successful and the firm was asked to refund him, but in a strange turn of events, in October 2013, Sergei Nikiforov was accused by the engineering firm of fraud and bribery. He was put under house arrest pending trial and there was no further action until September 2015. In July 2015, the Petropavlovsk mining company was granted a licence to extract gold using explosives within 2 km of Ivanovka village without any consultation with the affected Evenki community as required under Russian law. Talks between the Evenki, representatives of the company and the local government failed, but the works went ahead. Until then, the mining company had been extracting gold in the region for some years and relations with the Evenki were good. On 10 September, the villagers asked for all works to stop pending an ethnological and ecological survey and declared their intention to oppose the mining by all legal means. Sergei Nikiforov led the opposition to the latest licence despite being under house arrest. There are reasons to suspect that Sergei Nikiforov’s trial was unfair and intended to discourage opposition to the mining project. The 2013 case was reactivated in September 2015 just at the time when the villagers made clear their opposition to the mining project. Sergei Nikiforov’s initial testimony was taken before his lawyer could be present and Sergei Nikiforov later withdrew his testimony in court. The court also refused to consider vital defence evidence and to call crucial witnesses. Sergei Nikiforov is a respected member of his local community and under his leadership the village has grown and flourished. He is a prisoner of consciousness and should be released immediately.
On 15 September 2015, Rafis Kashapov, head of the local branch of the NGO Tatar Public Centre, was found guilty by the City Court in Naberezhnye Chelny, Republic of Tatarstan, in Russia, of calling for actions which threaten the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation (Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and instigating hatred or hostility and the abasement of human dignity (Article 282). These charges stem from the publication of several articles on his personal page on VKontakte (a popular Russian social media site) following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014. In his articles, he sharply criticised the Russian government’s involvement in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and the treatment of Crimean Tatars in the annexed Crimea. Rafis Kashapov has been in detention since 28 December 2014, when officials of the Federal Security Service of Tatarstan conducted a search of his flat and confiscated his computer and other electronic devices.
The court argued that expert text analysis had established that the posts were “modelling language of hostility, intending to instigate hatred between groups”, vaguely defining several such “groups” such as government officials, Russians and Tatars. The court also took the view that where Rafis Kashapov had insulted President Putin, he had insulted those who had voted for Putin. Rafis Kashapov should be released immediately and unconditionally, as he is imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Amnesty International strives to ensure respect for human rights worldwide.
It is a voluntary movement of people from around the world who are not indifferent to human rights abuses and who want to fight such abuses. That is why they conduct campaigns, organize public events, stand up for victims of injustice, and strive for systemic changes on state and international community levels. The work of Amnesty International is based on reliable research.
Amnesty International currently has approximately 7 million members and sympathizers in more than 150 countries and regions. It can achieve results only thanks to their support. Its prestigious status, gained through 50 years of activity, helps to ensure such support. Current information regarding world affairs, including videos and news articles, can be found at www.amnesty.org.
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