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Russia: Support Russian Lawyer Darya Poliudova!
Russia, action created 25.4.2016, petition is active
Left wing activist and blogger Darya Poliudova is well known in Krasnodar Region, South Russia, for her street actions and online activism. She is a vocal critic of the Russian authorities, particularly for their policies towards Ukraine. She has been detained on numerous occasions, including for several days at a time, for her peaceful street protests against the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s involvement in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Due to these detentions, she has lost several of her consecutive jobs, and been unable to work in her chosen field (law).
On 29 August 2014, she was arrested again and charged with “public calls to commit extremist activities” and “calls to take action threatening the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” (Article 280(1); 280(2) and 280.1(2) of the Russian Criminal Code). In February 2015, she was released under travel restrictions, pending trial. The trial began in September 2015, and on 21 December 2015 she was sentenced to two years imprisonment in an open prison colony. Her appeal against the sentence was unsuccessful.
The criminal charges against Darya are in relation to her social media posts, which contained her peaceful expression of personal opinion, as well as photos of herself carrying hand-written posters with slogans. These include:“No war in Ukraine but a revolution in Russia” and “Putin [must] answer for terrorist attacks and explosions!” She also re-posted a picture with a caption saying “Ethnic Ukrainians in Kuban want to be part of Ukraine” (Kuban is the historical name of a region in the vicinity of the river Kuban in the Russian Northern Caucasus, including most part of Krasnodar region and parts of other neighbouring regions in Southern Russia).
Darya Poliudova is a prisoner of conscience who has been deprived of her liberty solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. She must be released immediately and unconditionally.
After Russia's annexing of Crimea and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian armed forces in the Spring of 2014, many individuals have been convicted for allegedly inciting hatred and enmity on the internet. These people have criticized Russia's policy towards Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The number of Internet users who face prosecution for their critical views on Russia's current policy is only growing. Both Article 280 and Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code have been used to silence dissenters and to intimadate those who question Russia's official policy towards Ukraine. These articles relate to the dissemination of ethnic or religious hatred, and includes individual who call on the public to commit any form of extremist activities.
Darya Poliudova has 38 followers on the social network VKontakte. As such, her contributions cannot be taken as incitements of hatred and certainly not as a "danger to the public." Before her indictment, Darya was hardly even known. This act by the Russian government was intended as a message to like-minded users regarding their freedom of speech on the Internet.
Poliudova is not the only one who is behind bars for such an accusation. In September 2015, Rafis Kashapov was sentenced to prison for his online criticism of Crimea being annexed. After his reelection, President Putin has systematically gone after opponents of his regime. One of his methods is the use of legislation against so-called "extremists" that are intentionally vague and open to interpretation. The state has only strengthened its monitoring of Russian citizens through wire-tapping.
Since traditional forms of Russian media are either self-regulated or controlled by the state, the only space for free expression is the Internet. Last year, thousands of websites were blocked by Internet providers under the command of the Russian Roskomnadzor (under the Ministry of Communications). Among these blocked sites are political satire sites, those run by LGBTI activists, websites with information on public protests, and other religious texts. Russia's public policy therefore focuses on the censorship of the internet and other social networks in order to avoid public debates on sensitive topics such as Ukraine.