Harassment Faced by a Human Rights Defender: Criminal Case against Anastasia Denisova, President of NGO “ETHnICS”.

In Russian

Since 2007 different authorities and agencies of Krasnodar krai have systematically prevented Krasnodar regional non-governmental organization Youth Group for Tolerance "ETHnICS" from its work. In 2009 harassment faced by Anastasia as the head of NGO increased dramatically. It ended up with the criminal case against her. Anastasia Denisova is the member of the Coordinating Council of YHRM, Human Rights Center "Memorial" employee, member of project of Analytical Center "SOVA" and Council of Europe expert.

The new site of the support campaing of Anastasia Denisova: http://denisova.yhrm.org/en/

Short description of the situation:

On January 11, 2010, Ms. Anastasia Denisova's apartment was searched during more than three hours by police officers from the Krasnodar Crimes Department, Messrs. Armen Gasparjan, Pavel Ignatenko and Vasily Linkov, who were allegedly looking for a pirate software in the framework of an investigation on "terrorism". The three police officers bore a warrant of which Ms. Denisova was not given any copy, that was issued during the New Year holiday. They seized one laptop, external hard drive and flash memory. 

On January 12, 2010 Ms. Denisova was summoned for interrogation to the Krasnodar Police Department of Internal Affairs and found out that a criminal case against her had been opened in December 2009. Ms. Denisova is suspected of "illegal use of copyright objects or neighbouring rights" as well as "appropriation, storage, transportation of pirated copies of material for sale purposes on a large scale, with use of official position". If convicted, she could face a six-years prison term and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (approximately 11,700 euros). This criminal case was opened as a result of technical expertise of three central units seized from the premises Anastasia Denisova was working in Krasnodar in October, 2009.

On October 12, 2009 agents Prohodko and Gasparyan, belonging to the Investigation and Intervention Unit on Tax Offence pertaining to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Bektashev, the representative of SPEKTR company, raided premises in Krasnodar, that they supposed was "ETHnICS" office. They confiscated three central units, alleging they had received information according to which pirate softwares were being used in the office. The agents presented a warrant bearing an incorrect address and asked Ms. Anastasia Denisova to come with them for interrogation. She refused to follow them, claiming that the reasons for the interrogation had not been clearly stated. Agents insisted she followed them, used physical and psychological harassment: tried to take her by her hands and get into a car with no number plates.

 

An investigation is underway at the moment and Anastasia has to obey a recognizance not to leave, that means that she is prohibited to leave Krasnodar without the consent of an investigator.

Legal support is provided by the lawyers of AGORA Association.

Chronology of acts of harassment:

January 2007 - three simultaneous check-ups of "ETHnICS" that brought the activity of an NGO to a halt for three years.

August 2009 - 6 hours of Anastasia Denisova's questioning on the Russian border with Abkhazia about her activities.

September 2009 - defamation campaign against "ETHnICS" in the regional newspaper "Kuban News"

October 2009 - prohibition on behalf of the Krasnodar airport security agent to take Anastasia's laptop as cabin luggage on board the plane. The groundless prohibition ensued Anastasia's inability to take part in the OSCE/ODIHR event in Warsaw.

October 2009 - seizure of three central units from the premises, where Anastasia Denisova was working in Krasnodar. Agents took Anastasia by her hands and tried to take into the car with no number plates, allegedly, to take her to the police office.

December 2009 - a criminal case was opened against Anastasia Denisova, she is suspected of "illegal use of copyright objects or neighbouring rights" as well as "use of official position". If convicted, she could face a six-years prison term and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (approximately 11,700 euros).

January 2010 - search at Anastasia's rented apartment, seizure of one laptop, flash memory and external hard drive.

Background information:

Anastasia Denisova as a human rights and civil activist and expert in combating xenophobia is regularly invited to be a speaker at OSCE/ODIHR events about the role of youth and new methods of non-violent counteraction to hate crimes. She as well works as expert in several projects of Youth Directorate of Council of Europe. Anastasia is involved into Georgian-Russian Civil Dialogue and is the head of Krasnodar krai non-governmental organization Youth Group for Tolerance "ETHnICS".
YGT "ETHnICS" was registered in 2004. The objectives of this NGO are: to nurture tolerance in the youth sphere, to combat intolerance and aggressive manifestations of xenophobia and to raise awareness about human rights. Activists of "ETHnICS" have carried out more than 40 educational events in the region. There were also realized some projects aimed at research and defense of foreign students rights in the region, which resulted in the improvement of work of municipal authoritative bodies. The regular activity is monitoring of discriminatory incidents and right-wing extremists in Krasnodar, Anapa and Sochi.

What can be done:

We are sure that criminal prosecution of Anastasia Denisova and actions of law enforcement agencies in the recent months are connected with public activities of Anastasia as a human rights defender. At this very moment authorities endeavor not only to close YGT "ETHnICS", but also to deprive its president of liberty.

We have valid information that charges of beholding illegal software are put in order to shut down or pressurize non-governmental organizations and mass media in Russia.

At the moment YGT "ETHnICS" isn not able to operate due to action of local authorities. Incidents that prevent Anastasia from her human rights activities look like systematic and purposeful actions of official bodies. In this respect in order to restore the infringed rights of Anastasia Denisova we should insist on the most careful check whether actions of airport security services, the police agents and customs officers were lawful.

Detailed description:

 

In January 2007 there started three simultaneous check-ups in NGO: Krasnodar Department №1 of Tax Service, Regional Department of Federal Registration Service and Bank "Kuban Credit". As a result for the period of these actions the work of an NGO (at that moment of 6 employees - students) was brought to a halt. All the working time was necessary for reporting to different official departments, coping documents and giving explanations, etc. Tax check-up act stated that "ETHnICS" should be fined for 140,000 rubles for not paying the income tax from a charity contribution. The bank account of an NGO was arrested and court procedures began. It took "ETHnICS" almost three years to prove that tax claims were unfair. At the moment "ETHnICS" even after success in courts cannot use its bank account since according to the law tax claims are dismissed step by step and the procedure takes months. That is the way to hinder the work of an NGO for three years by means of putting forward fallacious claims of a tax inspector.
On August 27, 2009 Anastasia Denisova was coming back from Abkhazia from summer holidays along with her friend photojournalist. They were both groundlessly kept at the Russian border for more than 6 hours. Anastasia's backpack was carefully examined by customs officers in order to find any data carriers (laptop, CD or flash memory). Such devices were not found. While examining photojournalist's backpack customs officers found his personal laptop. According to Customs Code customs services control the transfer of goods though the border. Information - is not a commodity, according to the written explanatory note of the Federal Customs Service. In spite of this officers of Adler customs service copied 26 Gb of information from the photojournalists's laptop, getting acquainted with personal files, including correspondence. During examination customs officers refused to announce official grounds for the search. Weeks later, photojournalist got an order about appointing a criminalistic expertise whether the copied information is extremist or not. At the moment a number of appeals are submitted to the prosecutor's office and court about the violation of privacy and rights granted by the Constitution.

During the photojournalist customs examination, Anastasia had to be present in an adjacent room and answer the questions for hours on end about her human rights work. This questioning was held by the person in camouflage, who refused to tell his name or position.

 

In September 2009 there were three articles in "Kuban News", a newspaper which founder is the administration of Krasnodar krai, that were aimed at discrediting several regional NGOs, including YGT "ETHnICS". Adamant to make use of the right to answer, as a federal law on mass media allows, Anastasia and her colleagues wrote an article in protection of civil society of Krasnodar krai. The chief editor of "Kuban News" Evgenyi Khomutov refused to publicize the article in the newspaper without any further explanation.

On October 4, 2009 officers of Krasnodar airport security prevented Anastasia Denisova from participating in OSCE/ODIHR event in Warsaw, she was invited to. Before the flight Anastasia underwent the most thorough customs examination and passport control. During the remained preflight check Boris Dombrovskyi, airport security services officer, demanded that Anastasia's laptop was checked-in as a baggage. According to the Rules of the cabin (hand) luggage, passengers are allowed not only to get laptops aboard the plane but also use them during the horizontal flight of the vehicle. Austrian airlines representative on duty confirmed that laptop will most probably be damaged during the connection flights if put in a baggage hold. In spite of this, Dombrovskyi kept categorically stating that laptop should be checked-in as a baggage, otherwise he personally will not admit Anastasia to board the plane. When asked about the reasons for such a claim, Dombrovskyi mentioned some "internal instructions". It became obvious that the Anastasia's laptop, being estranged from her, was the desirable object. She had to cancel the flight.

 

On October 12, 2009 agents belonging to the Investigation and Intervention Uniton Tax Offence pertaining to the Ministry of Internal Affairs raided the premises where Anastasia was working in Krasnodar and confiscated three central units, alleging they had received information according to which pirate softwares were being used in the office. The agents presented a warrant bearing an incorrect address and asked Ms. Anastasia Denisova to come with them for interrogation. She refused to follow them, claiming that the reasons for the interrogation had not been clearly stated. After her refuse agents tried to take her by her hands and make her go out of the room to the car with no number plates. Anastasia categorically refused and managed to stay away from the car. The tenants of adjacent offices claimed that this car was standing near this building for two weeks.

On January 11, 2010 a three-hour search took place at the rented apartment, where Anastasia lives in Krasnodar. Police officers from the Krasnodar Crimes Department Messrs. Armen Gasparjan, Pavel Ignatenko and Vasily Linkov seized a laptop, flash memory and external HDD. They explained that they were allegedly looking for a pirate software in the framework of an investigation on "terrorism". The three police officers, who bore a warrant of which Ms. Denisova was not given any copy, informed Ms. Denisova that a criminal case had been opened against her in December.

On January 12, 2010 Ms. Denisova was summoned for interrogation to the Krasnodar Police Department of Internal Affairs, accompanied by her lawyer, Ms. Marina Dubrovina. During the interrogation, Ms. Denisova refused to answer the questions, relying on Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, which provides that "no one shall be obliged to give evidence against himself or herself". Ms. Denisova is suspected of "illegal use of copyright objects or neighbouring rights" as well as "appropriation, storage, transportation of pirated copies of material for sale purposes on a large scale, with use of official position". If convicted, she could face a six-years prison term and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (approximately 11,700 euros).