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Russian PEN Centre - Statement in Support of 'Bolotnaya' Prisoners

Wednesday 16 October 2013 - 1:00am

16 October 2013

On 6 May 2012, thousands of people congregated in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, to protest Vladimir Putin’s swearing in as president of Russia for the third time. Although the demonstration was authorised, violent clashes broke out between some of the protesters and the police. Approximately 400-650 people were briefly detained and 27 later faced criminal charges of attacking the police. Human rights groups have called on the authorities to investigate allegations of excessive use of force and arbitrary detention by the police in relation to events at Bolotnaya Square; there are credible reports that those detained were physically abused and denied medical treatment whilst in prison.

Twelve individuals – ten of whom are in pre-trial detention - are currently on trial in Moscow; they face charges of carrying out acts of violence against the police and of organising mass riots. If convicted, they each face between five and ten years in jail. Two other men have already received sentences of 2.5 and 4.5 years respectively; one man who suffers from a mental disability has been placed in indefinite psychiatric treatment following charges that he hit a police officer (despite evidence that he was not involved in the violence).

Human rights organisations have described the trial of the Bolotnaya protesters as forming part of a wider crackdown on political dissent in Russia.

The Russian PEN Centre has issued a statement calling on the authorities to give an amnesty to all protesters charged in relation to the Bolotnaya demonstration. Russian PEN has kindly provided us with the text in Russian and English. Please see below:


The trial of the participants in the opposition rally at Bolotnaya Square sadly testifies to a failure of Russian justice. The process and its preliminary results demonstrate that the judges hear and take into consideration only the prosecution’s arguments, whilst entirely ignoring all evidence presented by the defence. There is no possibility of a just and appropriate sentence being passed by such a court.

We, the writers of Russian PEN, resolutely protest the law enforcement practiced in relation to Bolotnaya Square, and the trial process that has followed. We believe that the only rational way out of this situation is to give an immediate amnesty to all those accused in this case, and to stop this mockery of judicial procedure.

We also wish to note that this trial and other similar court processes reduce to nothing all efforts by the authorities to create an attractive image of Russia in the eyes of civilized society.

Signed by over 50 PEN members


Суд над участниками митинга на Болотной – печальное свидетельство пороков российского правосудия. Процесс и первые его результаты показывают, что судьи слышат и учитывают исключительно мотивы обвинения и начисто игнорируют весь спектр доказательств, предъявляемых защитой. Рассчитывать на справедливый и правомочный приговор такого суда не приходится. В этой связи мы, писатели Русского ПЕН-центра, решительно протестуем против подобной правоприменительной практики и считаем, что в настоящее время единственным разумным выходом из создавшегося положения было бы немедленное объявление амнистии всем обвиняемым по этому делу, без доведения до конца лживой и издевательской юридической процедуры.

Добавим также, что этот и подобные ему судебные процессы сводят на нет все усилия власти по выстраиванию привлекательного образа России в глазах цивилизованного сообщества.