Environmental activist detained for swearing
Russia, action created 3.2.2014, petition is active
Yevgeniy Vitishko was detained on 3 February and charged with “petty hooliganism” for “swearing at a bus stop”. He has been sentenced to 15 days in detention. During this period Amnesty International regards him as a prisoner of conscience.
Yevgeniy Vitishko was detained by police at around 10.30am as he was leaving the penitentiary inspection building, where he was required to register under curfew conditions imposed on him as part of his earlier criminal conviction in connection with his environmental activism. The police reportedly initially told Yevgeniy Vitishko that he was suspected of theft, but later he was instead charged with petty hooliganism in relation to alleged incident of swearing at a bus stop. At the police station he was fingerprinted, and his mobile phone was inspected. The case was brought to court on the same day. At the court hearing Yevgeniy Vitishko asked to see his lawyer, but the judge declined his request and insisted on inviting a state-appointed lawyer instead, which Yevgeniy Vitishko declined. The court also refused to call to the hearing two “witnesses” who had purportedly seen him swearing and signed a statement against him. The judge found Yevgeniy Vitishko guilty of “petty hooliganism” and ruled that he must spend 15 days in detention. Yevgeniy Vitishko is going to appeal.
There have been previous occasions when the authorities have levied charges of petty hooliganism against civil society activists to prevent them from taking part in protests. Yevgeniy Vitishko’s colleagues believe that he has been detained in connection with his work as an environmental activist. They also believe that the authorities have tried to “neutralise” him in connection with the Olympic Flame Rally on 4 February in the regional capital Krasnodar. The Olympic Flame Rally was used by activists in other Russian cities to voice their protest.
Yevgeniy Vitishko is a member of the NGO Environmental Watch for North Caucasus (Ecologicheskaya Vakhta po Severnomu Kavkazu). Its members and supporters have reported harassment by the authorities in recent months. For example, Tatiana Borisova, a student at Kuban State University, was invited for a “preventative chat” with the Dean of her faculty. Police asked Victor Chirikov to come “for a chat” in connection with some video clips posted on the Internet. When he refused police threatened that they would visit him at home.