Russia: Opposition activist sentenced to four years in prison under repressive ‘undesirable organization’ law


Reacting to news that a Russian court has sentenced opposition activist and human rights defender, Andrei Pivovarov, to four years in a penal colony, on charges brought under the country’s repressive ‘undesirable organizations’ legislation, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Andrei Pivovarov’s unjust prosecution and cruel prison sentence are part of a campaign by Russian authorities to weaponize the Criminal Code against anyone who dares to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Both the verdict today and the criminal article under which it was issued are shameful.”

Andrei Pivovarov’s unjust prosecution and cruel prison sentence are part of a campaign by Russian authorities to weaponize the Criminal Code against anyone who dares to exercise their right to freedom of expression

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“Andrei Pivovarov should be immediately and unconditionally released. The authorities must also urgently repeal the legislation on ’undesirable organizations’ and ensure people can exercise their right to association without fear of reprisals. This law is clearly not concerned with criminal activity, but with repressing any form of dissent or criticism of the government. It simply should not exist.”

Andrei Pivovarov said in his final statement in court on 11 July: “And even if now those who stand for the future are trampled and imprisoned, I know that progress cannot be stopped, changes for the better are inevitable, and they are not far off. See you in our new, desirable and open Russia. We will pull through!”

Background

On 15 July, the Leninsky District Court of Krasnodar, southern Russia, sentenced Andrei Pivovarov, the former head of the now-disbanded Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to four years in a penal colony. Andrei Pivovarov was found guilty of leading an “undesirable organization”, a law that clearly contravenes the right to association. The charges relate to at least 30 social media posts he had shared about the group’s activities which he had led.

The crackdown came after the Russian authorities banned a UK-based organization called Open Russia in April 2017, which led to widespread reprisals against the Russian group of the same name. Pivovarov’s Otkrytaya Rossiya movement had ceased all work several days before his arrest on 31 May 2021, when he was taken off a flight from Saint Petersburg to Warsaw and put in pre-trial detention.

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