Press Releases

SCLJ to provide assistance to Russia’s most prominent human rights advocate

April 6, 2010

The prominent Russian human right advocate Lyudmila Alekseyeva has approached the Slavic Center for Law & Justice for legal assistance. Lawyer Anatoly Ptchelintsev, Co-chairman of the SCLJ, will appear on her behalf in court with respect to an assault case that took place on the platform of the “Park Kultury” subway station of the Moscow Metro on March 31.

On March 31, Lyudmila Alekseyeva came to the Park Kultury station to lay flowers in the memory of the victims of the terrorist attack that took place early in the morning of March 29. At that time, two explosions within one hour of each other took the lives of 40 people and left another 64 people wounded and injured.

A man who had been standing amongst the surrounding crowd of journalists approached Lyudmila Alekseyeva a few moments after she laid the flowers at a makeshift memorial. He yelled out “So you are still alive, whore!” and hit the 82-year old woman on the head. He was grabbed and tackled almost immediately by the crowd and handed to a group of policemen on duty on the subway platform. Lyudmila Aleskeyeva was truly shocked at what had just happened. While the physical assault resulted in minor injuries, fortunately she was not seriously injured.

Meanwhile, the assailant was brought to the local police precinct and identified as Konstantin Pereverznyev, a theologist and graduate of the Svyato-Tikhonovskiy Orthodox University. According to the municipal branch of the Moscow Department of Internal Affairs, he was formally charged with assault due to rowdy behavior. He was soon released with an order to not leave the city of Moscow.

The SCLJ is determined to request that the court revise the charges and qualify the actions of Pereverzyev as an act of blatant extremism, which should cause a notable reaction on the part of the public.

The SCLJ's Anatoly Ptchelintsev considers it absolutely irrelevant and inept to classify this assault as some sort of a hooligan-based motive. It is clear that the defendant knew that Lyudmila Alekseyeva is indeed a public person based on the comments made directly to her after the assault. Since the defendant recognized Alekseyeya, the attack could only have originated in connection with her advocacy activity and thus, the defendant's actions should not be qualified as merely an act of hooliganism.

Anatoly Ptchelintsev stated, “I think that our stance on this case will be met with considerable resistance, but we hope to overcome it. No doubt it is easy for the authorities to view this act as a domestic crime. It is also likely that, in the course of the proceedings, we will see the charges revised as disorderly conduct which falls under the administrative code rather than being considered a criminal act.”

Anatoly Ptchelintsev believes that Russian criminal legislation does not provide enough protection for public figures like Alekseyeya. For instance, there are punishments for crimes committed against police officers, government officials and journalists due to the risks inherent to their respective occupations, while there are absolutely no similar provisions protecting public advocates.

“There is an obvious bias here. It appears that Russian law offers better protection for governmental officials than it does to the people who take a stand in defense of human rights. It thus follows that the state puts itself above the individual,” commented Anatoly Ptchelintsev.

According to Interfax, one of Russia’s leading information agencies, Lyudmila Alekseyeva believes the assault was an act of provocation. The defendant explained that his actions were due to alcohol intoxication. The police officers who were present at the scene are of the same opinion.

In the 1970s, Lyudmila Alekseyeva was among the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group, formerly the oldest illegal human rights advocacy group functioning in the USSR. Her Moscow apartment used to serve as a meeting place for the dissidents and storage of illegally published anti-Soviet literature (“samizdat”). In 1977, she was necessitated to immigrate to the USA, where she continued her activities in the field of human rights advocacy. She participated in a number of OSCE conferences as a member of the USA delegation.

While living abroad, she conducted the first fundamental study of the history of non-conformity and dissent in the Soviet Union. In total, she has authored more than 100 works on human rights. In 1993, she returned to Russia and has been serving as the Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group since 1996, as well as the President of the International Helsinki Federation from 1998 to 2004. The European Parliament awarded Lyudmila Alexeyeva the Sakharov Prize for Freedom, named in honor of the famous Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.

The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization with the principal goal of protecting religious rights and freedoms of individuals and associations in Russia.

 
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