Fabricated case accuses activists of beating armed guards with a plastic camera

On May 15 the regional court in Tuapse will hold its first hearing of the absurd case against two EWNC activists accused of damaging an illegal fence around the Krasnodar governor’s dacha last year. The criminal hooliganism charges against the activists Suren Gazaryan and Evgeny Vitishko carry a punishment of up to five years in prison. They are accused of writing on the fence in Tuapse district, which stands in a public forest and violates several federal laws.

However launching one criminal probe against environmental activists appears to have not been enough for the regional authorities. It became known this week that Gazaryan and his lawyer Viktor Dutlov may be subjects in a new criminal probe into a beating they allegedly staged of several security guards near the fence.

The beating accusations against Gazaryan and Dutlov became public after they were illegally detained in March by security guards near the fence while taking pictures of it to prepare their defense against the hooliganism charges.

The security guards hit and handcuffed Gazaryan and forcibly held him and his lawyer for several hours, stealing his camera and phone. Police that arrived at the scene later falcified police reports to accuse Gazaryan of misconduct, and a Tuapse court sentenced him and his lawyer to 10 days of detention. Gazaryan’s camera was never returned, despite the fact that it contained video evidence proving the activists’ innocence and showing that the guards used force against them.

As the two men were deprived of their freedom on made-up charges, two security guards who held them captive on March 13 went to a local hospital and forced doctors to hospitalise them with a diagnosis of a concussion. They also filed a complaint to the police alleging that Gazaryan and his lawyer beat them with their phone and camera.

Police is now fabricating a new case against Gazaryan, basing it solely on false testimony of the guards, who accuse him of “inflicting physical damage with a photo camera” on the guards, as well as hitting one of them “against a metal pole”, while Gazaryan’s lawyer Viktor Dutlov hit the other’s head “against the trees”.

The allegations that two environmental activists used their plastic camera and a cell phone to beat two armed security guards were filed in a local court on April 19. These allegations were repeated by all police officers who later arrived at the scene on March 13 and illegally detained Gazaryan and Dutlov.

Although the charge of inflicting mild physical harm (article 115 of the criminal code) that may be used against the activists is unlikely to lead to jail time, it can be used by the court on May 15 to formally arrest him under his hooliganism case on the pretext of violating conditions of good behavior. Right now Gazaryan is barred from leaving the Krasnodar area in his status as charged with hooliganism.

EWNC has fought against illegal construction on the Black Sea, the only part of the country where Russian citizens can enjoy a nice coastal climate. However such construction had become rampant not in the least because high officials, including governor Alexander Tkachev, build their own dachas on public land on the Black Sea and restrict access to public shore and forest.

We consider this perverse case as prosecution of environmental activists that dared to challenge Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev and testament to the widespread corruption in the region’s police and court system, which serve the governor’s interests rather than upholding Russian laws.

Background information: http://www.facebook.com/notes/environmental-watch-on-north-caucasus/russias-environmental-activists-face-5-years-in-prison-for-damaging-an-illegal-f/1015075527323383

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