Saturday, October 06, 2007

Activists detained in Nizhny Novgorod. Anna Politkoskaya's legacy damaged.

Dear Friends in Nizhny, I hope you are fine. And back at your homes, hotels or offices. We know you have been arrested today.

Can you imagine? Both the organisers and (foreign) participants of a Human Rights Conference for the Memory of ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA have been arrested today.

We could see this was coming. A lot of harm has been done during these past few days by the police in Nizhny.

According to the Sobkor(R).ru news agency the five (foreigners) who were detained are Friederike Behr (Germany), Neil Hicks (UK), Sergio Kurbi (Spain), Rosaria Fernandez (Spain), and Rita Guybens (Belgium). They represent Amnesty International, League for Human Rights (Spain), and Human Rights First (USA).

Perhaps this means that the Human Rights workers, even in Russia, are many and powerful? If they were not, why bother to destroy a Conference for Promoting Tolerance?

Tomorrow a Memorial Event for Anna Politkovskaya of the same kind will be taking place in Moscow. We'll be watching you.

The following text is a press release of a New York based organisation called Human Rights first. Their representative Neil Hicks is among the detained.

Neil Hicks and Oksana Chelysheva, an organiser of the event, have been here in Helsinki a number of times, like you can see by reading IStori (tag: "Russia" on the right hand side bar).


Harassment by Russian Authorities Another Attempt to Avert Investigation of Politkovskaya’s Murder

Human Rights First criticized the Russian government’s harassment of organizers and participants in events planned to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, calling this interference another in a long list of official attempts to hinder a credible investigation of the journalist’s murder.

A representative from Human Rights First, who traveled to Russia to take part in the commemoration, has witnessed the government’s efforts to intimidate participants first-hand.

In advance of events scheduled for October 5-6 in Nizhny Novgorod, police raided the offices of the organizers, seizing several computers. Hotel reservations for several guests were cancelled due to a purported water leak, and a room booked for a press conference was suddenly rented for another conference. On October 5, traffic police towed away a minivan used by organizers to transport guests. Participants reported a heavy police presence at hotels and near the offices of human rights organizations.

“The Russian authorities are reminding us of the importance of Politkovskaya’s work in their own way, by trying to silence those who have gathered to commemorate her life,” said Maureen Byrnes, executive director of Human Rights First. “Instead of trying to uncover who was behind the murder, police are using their resources to harass local activists and intimidate foreign visitors.”

Human Rights First is concerned that the Russian authorities are trying to shift responsibility for Politkovskaya’s murder to unnamed forces outside the country. Ten suspects have been arrested in connection with the investigation. Despite the fact that the suspects included current and former members of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika claimed that “only individuals located outside the territory of the Russian Federation could have an interest in getting rid of Politkovskaya.”

“We call on the Russian government to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into Politkovskaya’s murder that takes into account the clear evidence of the involvement of individuals with close ties to the security services,” Byrnes said.

Politkovskaya’s investigative journalism had made her many enemies inside Russia. Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in her apartment on October 7, 2006, was seen by many in the Russian human rights community as a colleague and ally. She worked closely with several human rights organizations to gather information about violations in Chechnya and to help the victims of the conflict.

“Few acts have done more to create the climate of uncertainty and insecurity for Russian human rights defenders than Politkovskaya’s assassination and the government’s refusal to adequately investigate it,” said Byrnes. “Official attempts to put a slanted interpretation on this tragic event are not consistent with the pursuit of justice.”

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