Russia: Activist Jailed on Trumped Up Drug Charges
Earlier this week, the list of what many are calling Russia’s ‘political prisoners’ grew yet again. On August 28, an Other Russia [ru] activist Taisiya Osipova [ru] was sentenced to eight years in prison for drug possession — four years more than the prosecution had requested. Osipova, a diabetic mother, was originally sentenced to ten years, but her case was sent back to a district court for a retrial, after then-President Dmitri Medvedev publicized his disapproval of the sentence andpromised [ru] to have state prosecutors “deal with the case.”
Osipova’s new verdict has left bloggers questioning both Medvedev’s integrity and his remaining influence within the government. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov wrote [ru] on his Facebook:
Д. Медведев дважды мне и моим соратникам обещал помочь освободить Таисию. Помог, как видите. Ну почему они такие ничтожные, подлые вруны???
Flawed case for the prosecution
The circumstances of Osipova’s arrest and imprisonment remain suspicious. Police searching her apartment committed numerous procedural violations, with only one witness. Later, that witness claimed that he saw the police planting drugs in the apartment; his words were confirmed by a lie detector test. The court, however, dismissed his testimony.
The three young women [ru] who allegedly participated in a sting operation, purchasing drugs from Osipova, are also members of pro-Kremlin youth groups NASHI and Molodaya Gvardiya. Moreover, some evidence indicates that they were elsewhere during the supposed drug-buy. While the police usually use marked bills in sting operations, only one such bill was found in her flat. Osipova’s supporters argue that it was likely planted there, along with 10 grams of heroin.
Furthermore, blogger Vladislav Naganov questions [ru] whether Osipova’s harsh sentence reflects standard court practices in drug-related cases. According to his research, defendants convicted of similar crimes are usually sentenced to 2-to-4 years, instead of 8:
Буквально на днях организатора наркопритона под Калининградом (г. Черняховск) осудили на 2 года условно, хотя он был признан виновным и в незаконном приобретении, и хранении без цели сбыта наркотических средств в крупном размере.
The examples go on. Journalist Demyan Kudryavtsev believes [ru]:
Удвоить запрошенный прокурором срок по преступлению не связанному с насилием – это окончательное превращение судебной системы в карательную.
Why was Osipova punished so severely? Her allies, which seems to include the majority of Russian netizens, believe that the authorities framed her, in order to force her to testify [ru] against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, a regional leader of Other Russia. That movement — particularly its leader, Eduard Limonov — is regularly targeted by police, just as law enforcement hounded its predecessor, the National Bolsheviks. As Limonov himself wrote [ru] in his blog:
Восемь лет за решеткой для женщины с диабетом, – это смертная казнь. Они хотят убить Тасю. Заметно, насколько приговоры по нацболам суровее простых репрессий.
Parallels with Pussy Riot
A week before Osipova’s eight-year judgment was announced, the three women from Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison. The two decisions seem at odds with both legal precedent and common sense. Pussy Riot, however, has become a symbol of Russia’s political opposition. Osipova’s case, on the other hand, has not attracted [ru] much attention from either international or domestic audiences. Global celebrities like Paul McCartney and Madonna (who spoke out on behalf of the jailed punk rockers) have been silent about Osipova, a provincial opposition activist, who will spend four times longer behind bars for actions she may never have committed in the first place.
This article is originally published by Global Voices, you can find the original here.