Front Line: Criminal proceedings against human rights defender Ms Anastasia Denisova
The formal pre-hearing in the trial of human rights defender Ms Anastasia Denisova will take place on 22 March 2010 at 10 am. Anastasia Denisova has been charged with the “illegal use of non-licensed software by a person in an official position” and the “creation of computer malware”. If found guilty of these charges, she could face up to nine years in prison and a fine of up to 700,000 Rubles (approximately 17,400 Euro).
Anastasia Denisova is the president of the Youth Group for Tolerance “ETHnICS” (YGT “ETHnICS”), a member of the Coordinating Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, an employee of Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, and co-coordinator of the ”Green Alternative” group in the region of Krasnodar.
YGT “ETHnICS” monitors manifestations of xenophobia and the situation of ethnic minorities in the Krasnodar region. Front Line previously issued an appeal in relation to the intimidation and harassment of Anastasia Denisova on 20 October 2009.
On 12 January 2010, Anastasia Denisova was summoned to the Krasnodar Police Department of Internal Affairs where she was informed that criminal proceedings had been initiated against her in December 2009. Anastasia Denisova has been charged with the “illegal use of non-licensed software by a person in an official position” and the “creation of computer malware” under Article 146 part 3, paragraph D and Article 273 part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation respectively.
The charges against Anastasia Denisova are based on the examination of computer equipment which does not belong to either Anastasia Denisova or YGT “ETHnICS”.
On 11 January 2010, Anastasia Denisova's apartment was subjected to a three-hour search by three police officers from the Krasnodar Crimes Department, who were searching for pirated software. The police officers presented a warrant that was issued during the New Year holiday and refused to give Anastasia Denisova a copy of this warrant. The laptop of Anastasia Denisova's friend, an external hard drive and a USB stick were confiscated in the search.
Anastasia Denisova and YGT “ETHnICS” have been targeted for some time now. On 12 October 2009, officials from Krasnodar Economic Crime Department and the commercial firm “SPECTR” raided premises where Anastasia Denisova was working, assuming that it was the office of YGT “ETHnICS”, to search for counterfeited copies of software. However the address in the complaint which provoked this search did not coincide with the address of the premises. Three system units, none of which belonged to either Anastasia Denisova or YGT “Ethnics”, were confiscated in the raid.
In October 2009, Anastasia Denisova was prevented from travelling to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw by a representative from the Service of Aircraft Security, who refused to allow her to carry her laptop as hand luggage on board the plane.
Despite declarations by both a representative of Austrian Airlines and the head of the shift at the passport control service that the laptop would definitely be damaged if checked in and that it was the first time they had ever heard such demands, the security representative insisted and referred to “internal instructions”.
In October 2009, the official newspaper “Kubanskie Novosti” ('News of Kuban') published several articles targeting YGT “ETHnICS” and Anastasia Denisova in which the author stated that the human rights monitoring issues edited by Anastasia Denisova were “inciting ethnic hatred”.
In August 2009, Anastasia Denisova along with a photojournalist were returning from a trip to Abkhazia when they were stopped for 7 hours by customs officers. Anastasia Denisova’s luggage was searched and the customs officers and Russian border officers questioned her for several hours about her human rights activities. The photojournalist accompanying her was searched, and more than 20 GB of information were copied from his laptop and confiscated.
YGT “ETHnICS” has been restrained in its activities since 2007, when it was investigated simultaneously by the Federal Registration Office and the Federal Tax Service, and subjected to a bank inspection.
Activists of the group sent complaints about infringements made by the Registration Office during these check-ups and won a court case concerning the illegal demands of the Tax Service. However, for three years now the organisation has been restricted in its work due to legal proceedings and was only able to re-open its bank account in December 2009.
Front Line believes that Anastasia Denisova is being targeted as a direct result of her work in the defence of human rights, in particular her work with YGT “ETHnICS”. Front Line sees this as part of a pattern of ongoing harassment against Anastasia Denisova. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Anastasia Denisova.