Reacting to the news that a Russian court has sentenced activist Mikhail Iosilevich to one year and eight months in a penal colony on fabricated charges of collaborating with so called ‘undesirable’ organization, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The Russian authorities have added yet another name to the tally of activists they have persecuted for collaborating with so-called ‘undesirable organizations.’ The repressive legislation underpinning Mikhail Iosilevich’ssentence has only ever been used to stifle dissenting voices. The law is a blatant pretext for repression and an assault on freedom of expression.
“A renowned activist and publisher, Mikhail Iosilevich has enriched public discourse through the peaceful expression of his views and support for civic initiatives. His activism should be welcomed in the arena of public debate, not criminalized. He has committed no internationally recognized crime and is prisoner of conscience. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
On 27 May, the Sovetsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod, Central Russia, sentenced Iosilevich to one year and eight months in a penal colony. He was found guilty of collaborating with an “undesirable organization” — the now defunct Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He was also found guilty of threatening a witness. Mikhail Iosilevich pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Iosilevich, a civil society activist and regional leader of the Pastafarians (followers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), was previously fined in July 2019 and June 2020 for “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization” after he provided an office for opposition activists, which allegedly included individuals working with Otkrytaya Rossiya.
A criminal case was initiated against him on 29 September 2020 after he provided a space for the training of election monitors. Iosilevich’s home and those of several other Nizhny Novgorod activists and journalists were searched shortly afterwards.