Igor Yashin, a leading member of Socialist Alternativa and Co-President of the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers, together with Nikolai Kretov, Dmitrii Borisenko and Mikhail Komrakov, who came to Igor’s assistance during his arrest on an anti-fascist march in Moscow, last Saturday, were held in police cells and taken to court on Monday afternoon, to be charged with disobeying the police (for more background information see http://socialistworld.net/index.php/other-topics/solidarity/10083-urgent-appeal-cwi-member-and-three-others-face-prison-sentence-in-russia).
If found guilty, this could have resulted in 15 days in prison for Igor. During their stay in the police station, there were suggestions that the charges would include criminal use of force against the police, which could mean an even longer prison sentence.
The court hearing was conducted behind closed doors.
The three other defendants were allowed to walk freely because according to Russian law the police are only allowed to hold a person for 48 hours and this period finished just before the start of the hearing.
The case against Igor had already started. The judge ruled that Igor could also leave the court, although the case against him would continue in his absence.
As Igor went to leave the building, people in plain clothes who had been in the police station where Igor was held, tried to stop. They claimed that they had an unspecified “order” against Igor. But Igor’s comrades and members of his trade union surrounded Igor, so he could leave the building.
Meanwhile, the judge sent the charge sheet back to the police station, saying that the charge was invalid. The charge was changed to a lesser charge, with no arrest sanctions. Igor was fined 20,000 rubles (just under 300 euros) for “breaking the rules for public demonstrations”.
This result was due undoubtedly to the campaign of international solidarity. Within hours of Igor’s arrest, letters of protest and telephone calls were being made to Russian embassies, prominent amongst which were from the three Solidary TDs (member of the Irish Parliament), who are also and Socialist Party members, trade unionists from England and Wales, Ireland, Greece, Israel, Canada, a Left Party MP from Sweden, as well as messages of solidarity from the US, Spain and Belgium.
Throughout Sunday, a “single person picket” (the only form of protest that does not require official permission in Russia) was maintained outside the police station. Invaluable legal assistance was given by Vika Gromova, and other rights activists. The arrests were reported by the non-state media, including “Novaya Gazeta”. A journalist, Ali Feruz, who worked for this agency, was arrested in 2016 and eventually released after a successful campaign.
Igor, the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers, and Socialist Alternativa (CWI Russia) send their thanks to all who reacted quickly to this threat.