Misuse of Anti-Extremism in June 2015

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».
The following is our review of the primary and most representative events in the misuse of Russia's anti-extremist legislation in June 2015.


In mid-June the Russian Federation Government issued a decree which approved the rules of making up the list of organizations mentioned in the updated third and fourth parts of Article 6 of the law “On Immortalization of Victory of the Soviet People in the Great Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945,” as well as the list of attributes and symbols of these organizations. Ministry of Justice has been assigned to form the list. The organizations cooperating with Nazis or justifying their activities are to be included in the list on the basis of documents presented to the Ministry of Justice by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, FSB, the Prosecutor General's Office "and other federal public authorities." The extrajudicial order of forming the list raises doubts.

Attributes and symbols will be included in the corresponding list on the basis of the courts' sentences imposing administrative penalties for offenses under the Administrative Code Article 20.3. Thus, according to the text of the rules, in case an organization is included to the list, its symbols are added after the administrative penalty is imposed for its display. In other words, the duties to define, what symbols of the organizations included into the list are banned, are delegated to the police and local courts which are hardly competent on the matter.

Criminal Prosecution

In mid-June Tsentralny district court of Kaliningrad convicted three activists under the Criminal Code Article 213 Part 2 (hooliganism committed by a group of persons by prior agreement, motivated by political hatred and enmity, and motivated by hatred against the social group “government representatives”). They were found guilty of hanging a German flag on a garage of the Kaliningrad Regional FSB Office in March 2014. The court sentenced them to a real prison terms, however, taking into account the terms spent in a pre-trial detention center, all the three activists were released in the courtroom. Dmitry Fonaryov and Oleg Savvin were sentenced to one year and one month of a standard regime penal colony under part 2 of the Criminal Code Article 213, Mikhail Feldman was also sentenced to one year and one month under part 2 Article 213, as well as to six months of a colony under the Criminal Code Article 222 (illegal storage of explosives), by partial addition of punishments — to one year, one month and 23 days of imprisonment in a penal colony. We consider this sentence as inappropriate.

In June it became known that the case of the chairman of the Tatar Public Center Rafis Kashapov had been submitted to the Naberezhnye Chelny City court. It is clear from the indictment that Kashapov is not only charged under Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 282 (incitement to hatred and enmity) but also under Part 2 of Article 280.1 (public calls for action aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation). Kashapov is accused of posting four materials from July 1 to December 11, 2014, in open access on his social network VKontakte page: The Crimea and Ukraine will be free from invaders!, Yesterday Hitler and Danzig, today Putin and Donetsk!, We will protect Ukraine and all the Turkic world, Where Russia is, there are tears and death (one of these materials belongs to Rafis Kashapov's brother, Nafis). In our opinion, Kashapov's charges under Article 280.1 are inappropriate. Prosecuting for expression of one's opinion as well as for stating norms of international law regarding the Crimea's incorporation into Russia is obviously an excessive restriction of freedom of speech. The charge under Article 282 is based on the expertise revealing "language means for deliberate expressing negative estimates of Russians, the Russian authorities, Vladimir Putin on the basis of 'attitude towards the nation” in Kashapov's texts. We see no signs of incitement to ethnic hatred in the materials incriminated. We haven’t also found appeals to military operations there. In May, 2015 the "Memorial" Human Rights Center recognized Rafis Kashapov as a political prisoner and demanded his immediate release.

The case of Krasnodar activist Darya Polyudova was sent for a supplementary examination for the fourth time because of new charges, this time under the Criminal Code Article 319 (insulting a government official) filed against her. The new investigation has to do with Polyudova's reposting on VKontakte social network. The text related to defects of Putin's regime and contained an offer to support the statement in an obscene language form. We remind that Polyudova had been accused under the Criminal Code Articles 280 (public calls for extremist activity) and 280.1 (public calls for action aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation). From our point of view, criminal prosecution of the activist under these two articles is inappropriate. We consider that appeals to separatism deserve criminal prosecution only if they are combined with appeals to violent action which Polyudova has not expressed. We have not got a chance to study the full text of Polyudova's posts regarded by the law enforcement agencies as "statements inciting violent change of basis of the Russian Federation constitutional system and violent change of the State system.” However, apparently, they posed no danger.

In June it became known of the criminal case brought in Taganrog, Rostov region, under Part 1 of Article 282 (incitement to hatred or hostility towards a certain social group) against a 31-year-old local resident. According to the investigation, the woman had downloaded a leaflet entitled A.C.A.B., or All Cops Are Bastards from VKontakte social network, printed 50 copies and hung them out at busstops and lampposts in one of the streets on November 10, 2014 (on the eve of the Police Day). It is reported that the expertize carried out on the matter has found "calls for hostile actions against police officers" in the leaflet text. Unfortunately, we could not examine the content of the leaflet. In general, we believe, that the vague concept of a social group is a source for abuses and should be expelled from the anti-extremism articles. Besides, we consider that police officers are not among the vulnerable social groups protected by the Criminal Code Article 282. Thus, at least the wording of the charge is incorrect.

In mid-June in Ufa the Moscow District military court convicted eight people for cooperation with Hizb ut-Tahrir. They were found guilty under Part 2 of Article 282.2 (participating in activity of an extremist organization) and Parts 1 and 2 of Article 205.5 (organizing the activities of a terrorist organization and participating in it). The court considered that Ilgiz Salakhov had been the head of a cell of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the city of Dyurtyuli and Dyurtyuli district in 2011-2014, the members of the cell were involving parishioners of local mosques in the organization, showing them "extremist video records and literature based on methods of psychological influence and manipulation." The court sentenced Salakhov to 10 years 6 months of imprisonment in a maximum security penal colony with one year restraint of liberty, the other of the convicted received from five to six and a half years of a standard regime penal colony. It is the first case when members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were convicted under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code. We remind that, in our opinion, the orgainization has been inappropriately banned as terrorist. There are many signs forcing the State to treat the movement watchfully and to ban it, however, neither the doctrine, nor practice of Hizb ut-Tahrir allow to consider this organization as terrorist.

The same days, it became known of the approved indictment on the criminal case filed under Part 2 of Article 282.2 in 2013 against 16 followers of Tablighi Jamaat movement in Novosibirsk. All of them were accused of disseminating ideas of the banned organization, recruiting followers and participating in meetings held by Tablighi Jamaat. We remind that we regard the ban of Tablighi Jamaat religious association, which is only promoting Islamic religious practices and is not known for incitement to violence, as inappropriate. We also consider the prosecution of the followers as unjustified.

Administrative Prosecution

In June we learned about four people and one legal entity prosecuted under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 (mass distribution of inappropriately banned extremist materials or possession with intent to distribute). The head of the Mogochinsky district of Transbaikal Krai Dmitry Plyukhin is one of the fined. He was fined for publication of inappropriately banned video by Alexey Navalny’s supporters Let’s Remind Crooks and Thieves of their 2002 Manifesto on his LiveJournal page. Among those punished there was a convict of one of the Ryazan region penal colonies for posting on his VKontakte page the book entitled The Garden of the Righteous the ban of which had been cancelled by a court judgment. A Samara businessman was fined for leaflets with a slogan Die for Homeland and not of heavy drinking and a picture by Alexander Savko Sermon on the Mount. Victor Korb, journalist from Omsk, was sentenced for publishing on the Omsk Political website a cover of the bulletin Radical Politics. Newspaper of Russia's Anti-Imperial Committee No. 2, September, 2011, that some of the articles had been banned. A protocol on possession of banned religious brochures with intent to distribute was filed against Jehovah's Witnesses community of Birobidzhan (JAO).

In June we found out about four cases of prosecution for demonstration of Nazi symbols with no intention of Nazi propaganda under the Administrative Code Article 20.3. In Kalmykia editor-in-chief of the Elistinsky Courier newspaper A. Emgeldinov was fined and head of the printing house's where the newspaper had been printed received a Prosecutor's Office's warning because of an article on danger of neo-Nazi trends. The article was illustrated with a photo of a Saint Petersburg skinhead with a Nazi eagle tattoo. Kurgan City Council former deputy Ivan Kamshilov was found guilty of posting a material about his rival at Kurgan Duma elections including a photo with swastika obviously used as means of criticism. In Izhevsk, an activist of Party of Progress Timofey Klabukov was sentenced to a fine for reposting Facebook photos of public actions of parties which had been present at the Russian Conservative Forum in Saint Petersburg; some people on the photos held flags with swastika. Klabukov meant not to promote the far right organizations invited to Saint Petersburg by the Rodina party with the authorities’ conscent but rather to show the danger they constituted. Krasnodar activist Darya Polyudova mentioned above was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest for posting two images with swastikas on her VKontakte page though none of them could be regarded as Nazi propaganda.

Four directors of educational institutions in Tuva and an owner of computer club from Surgut (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug-Ugra) were prosecuted for imperfect content filters (which, even in theory, are unable to weed out all banned content) under the Administrative Code Article 6.17 (violation of the RF legislation on protecting children from information harmful to their health and/or development).

Banning Organizations and Materials for Extremism, Blocking Websites and Other State and Public Actions

In early June it became known that the Karachay-Cherkess Republic Prosecutor's Office filed a claim in the Cherkessk city court that a city Jehovah's Witnesses organization be recognized as extremist and disbanded. The prosecutorial charges are based on the fact that two members of the organization had been prosecuted under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for distribution of banned brochures. After that the community received a warning about the impermissibility of extremist activity. But, according to the Prosecutor's Office, the members of the community continued to distribute banned literature. In case of a ban and liquidation of the community its members may face  criminal prosecution under the Criminal Code Article 282.2  for continuing activity of the organization recognized as extremist. We would like to remind that we consider prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses and banning their texts for extremism as inappropriate.

 In June it became known from updates of the Federal List of Extremist Materials that three Muslim books were included to the List by the decision of Kirov region Kotelnichsky district court of 16 April 2015 (as no. 2858): Pictures from Lives of the Prophet's Associates by Abdul Hamid bin Abdurrahman al-Suhaibani, Interpretations of the Beautiful Names of Allah in the Light of Quran and Sunnah  by Said Ali bin Wahf al-Qahtani  and M. H. al-Qahtani’s summary of the book The Correct Way of Understanding Monotheism by Sheikh Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz Al ash-Sheikh. All of the three religious works do not contain any signs of extremism.

By the decision of Nizhny Tagil Tagilstroyevsky district court (Sverdlovsk region) made on 30 March 2015 the List came to include a video Jesus in Islam and Christianity. Innocence of Christians, posted on YouTube. The video denies the divine nature of Christ which is quite natural for Islam preachers. However, theological questions of the kind do not fall within the scope of the anti-extremist legislation. Besides, several brochures and bulletins were added to the Federal List reflecting the decision of Tetyushsky district court of Tatarstan made on 7 April 2015: the brochure Stages of the Appeal (Ziyarat) (No. 2836 in the Federal List), the brochure A Righteous Family (No. 2837), the 13th issue of the Information and Analytical Digest for 2007 (No. 2838), Way to belief by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani (No. 2839) and Fundamentals of Children's Education by Najah al Sabatin (No. 2840). All of these materials are related to Hizb ut-Tahrir party. Unfortunately, we have no opportunity to examine the majority of them, however, the analysis of the Fundamentals of Children's Education that, in our opinion, does not have signs of extremism shows that not all of them contain dangerous propaganda.

In June it became known that in May the Saint Petersburg Pushkinsky district court recognized an essay by Yevgeny Babushkin Charlie Chaplin Is a Blackass. On the attitude towards migrants, published on Snob website on 17 October 2013. Experts considered that "the text contains indirect signs of inciting citizens to actions; statements containing offensive characteristics,negative emotional estimates and  attitudes are given in the form of non-categorical judgments.” In our opinion, the court’s decision  is inappropriate. Babushkin's publicistic text is directed against xenophobic petty-bourgeois stereotypes, everyday xenophobia and anti-migrant moods. The main point of the essay is equality of people of any ethnic origin and lack of respect and humanism in our society. The text's style is disputable, as well as the use of pejorative lexicon, especially in the heading, looks unethical and could, finally, be harmful for public environment, regardless of the author's intentions: but all of these have nothing to do with the law..

The Asbest city court banned Dulles's Plan for Destruction of the USSR (Russia) spread in the city as a leaflet; and that sounds like an anecdote. Experts of the Russia's FSB criminalistic laboratory of Sverdlovsk region found the information as aimed "at incitement of hatred and hostility towards the authorities of modern Russia" in this notorious text. Dulles's plan (or "Dulles's Doctrine") attributed to Allen Dulles, the CIA director in 1950s, has been circulated since the beginning of 1990s among supporters of conspiracy theories who believed that the USA had intended to break the Soviet Union down by moral decay of its population. This text was generally made of statements by the villain of Anatoly Ivanov’s novel Eternal Call (“Vechny zov”) written in 1981. Searching signs of "incitement of hatred and hostility towards the authorities of modern Russia" in a widely known forgery only shows that the FSB experts are not aware of its origins.

In late June the site of the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) was blocked and included in Lugovoy's Register following the Prosecutor General's Office's request. The CPA head Mikhail Anshakov’s blog on LiveJournal was also blocked. Moreover, the Prosecutor General's Office filed materials to the Russia’s Investigative Committee to open a criminal case under Article 280.1. All of these were caused by the text posted on the CPA website entitled Instructions for Russian tourists going for a rest to Crimea. The instructions contained recommendations to observe the Ukrainian legislation and get permission from the Ukrainian border service to visit the Crimea being an occupied territory from the perspective of the international law. The CPA intends to appeal against the blocking. We believe that prosecution for stating the international law is a direct violation of freedom of speech.

In late June the Magadan region election committee issued a warning to the RPR-PARNAS party. Election committee members found signs of incitement to hatred towards a social group “officials” in an agitational brochure on illegal enrichment of authorities prepared by the party and banned its distribution. They also expressed their intention to send the brochure to the Prosecutor's Office for a check and a lawsuit on its ban. The brochure entitled History of Illegal Enrichment is distributed within the election campaign for the Magadan region Duma in which Alexey Navalny's colleagues from the Fight against Corruption Fund take part as RPR-PARNAS list members.