Help Family Imprisoned For Selling Poppy Seeds (Russian Federation: UA 228/16)

Urgent Action
October 7, 2016

Four members of the Polukhin family were accused of drug trafficking in 2010 for selling culinary poppy seeds and each sentenced to eight years in prison after an unfair trial. They have appealed to the Russian Supreme Court. The hearing is expected within days.

Aleksandr Polukhin established a bakery, cafe and a small grocery store, in Voronezh, South Russia, in 2000, after retiring from the air force. His wife Mariya Polukhina, their daughter Yevgeniya Polukhina, and Nina Chursina (Aleksandr Polukhin’s sister-in-law) were employed in the family business, which did well and was employing 15 people by 2010. As part of the business they baked poppy seed buns and sold culinary poppy seeds. According to the family, in 2010 officers from the local department of the Federal Drugs Agency demanded “protection money”. After they refused to pay, the Federal Drugs Agency brought charges of drug trafficking against them alleging that the poppy seeds the family sold, containing negligible quantities of poppy straw (which is normal in culinary poppy seeds), were narcotic substances intended for drug users.

During the trial, which started in July 2012, the judge unquestioningly accepted the prosecution’s case. All prosecution witnesses were anonymous drug users alleged to have bought poppy seeds from members of the family. Three of the witnesses had already been prosecuted for drug-related offences. One of the three witnesses withdrew her testimony in court saying that she had lied in return for criminal charges being dropped against her. The judge did not question these witnesses’ reliability and ignored the alibis presented by the family proving that they could not have been selling poppy seeds on two of the occasions claimed by the prosecution. On one occasion Yevgeniya Polukhina had been admitted to hospital suffering a miscarriage. Nina Chursina was accused of selling poppy seeds in May 2010 using a car she bought later, in September 2010.

In July 2015, they were all sentence for drug trafficking. Aleksandr Polukhin was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison, while Mariya Polukhina, Yevgeniya Polukhina and Nina Chursina were sentenced to eight years and six months. The family had to close the business as a result. Their sentences were reduced by a few months on appeal on 17 February 2016. Further appeal requests before the Voronezh Regional Court on 31 May and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on 29 August were refused. The final appeal, submitted on 28 September, is now pending before the Supreme Court and the hearing is expected within days.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the Russian authorities to review the case against the Polukhin family in line with fair trial standards and the powers given to the Prosecutor’s Office;
  • Urging them to ensure the retrial of the case is carried out in full accordance with fair trial standards.
Contact these 2 officials by 18 November, 2016:
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General’s Office
ul. B. Dmitrovka, d.15a
125993 Moscow GSP- 3
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 987 5841 / +7 495 692 1725
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General


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