(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The apparently arbitrary arrest and detention of a further 234 peaceful protesters outside a Moscow court building today shows how the Russian authorities' rampant violation of freedom of expression and assembly shows no sign of letting up, Amnesty International said.
The new arrests came as eight protesters were sentenced in the landmark Bolotnaya Square protest trial. They follow the arbitrary detention of nearly 200 protesters and journalists outside the same court on Friday, when the Bolotnaya defendants were convicted. Meanwhile, in Sochi, another two activists were re-arrested on Sunday and face up to 15 days of administrative detention.
"Just a day after Russia was feted on the world stage at the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian authorities have laid bare the reality of life in the country today. Those who dare to express dissenting views face serious consequences," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Some of those arrested outside the Moscow court have since been released, but most face administrative fines of up to RUB30,000 (around $800) for participating in an "unauthorized gathering."
Vladimir Akimenkov, a former Bolotnaya defendant and prisoner of conscience, was among those detained on Friday and again today. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, former prisoners of conscience jailed for their peaceful activism as part of the punk collective Pussy Riot, were also arrested outside the court, allegedly for "jay-walking."
The two activists arrested in Sochi yesterday - Olga Noskovets and David Khakim - are due to appear in court today. In violation of Russian law, the court attempted to hear their case behind closed doors, but after intervention of the defence team the court allowed for open hearings.
Olga Noskovets has not been given any food since being detained more than 24 hours ago. If they are convicted and imprisoned, Amnesty International will consider them prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.