- In July the trial began of Yuri Samodurov, former director of Moscow's Sakharov Museum, and Andrei Yerofeev, an art curator, on a charge of inciting hatred that carries a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment. They were charged in connection with a 2007 Moscow exhibition of works that had been rejected by other galleries, intended to promote debate on freedom and art.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Regional commissions for public oversight of places of detention started to function from January onwards. They were appointed in several Russian regions following the adoption of enabling legislation in September 2008. There were widespread reports of torture or other ill-treatment in places of detention, including alleged denial of medical aid. In a few cases, law enforcement officials were convicted of abuse of office in connection with such reports. However, allegations that the authorities failed to investigate effectively such abuses remained frequent.
- In February and April, Zubair Zubairaev, an ethnic Chechen, was reportedly beaten and otherwise illtreated by prison officers in a prison colony in Volgograd region. During a visit in April his lawyer saw marks on his shoulders and across his chest. No medical help was provided and the injuries he received were not recorded. Possibly as a result of his complaints about his treatment, Zubair Zubairaev was transferred to a different colony.
- Sergei Magnitskii, a lawyer, died in pre-trial detention in Moscow in November. A criminal investigation into his death was opened following information that he had been denied medical treatment.
Trial procedures frequently failed to meet international standards of fair trial. In some cases there were concerns that the treatment of suspects was politically motivated. In September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on the Russian Federation, among others, to adopt reforms to increase judicial independence and end the harassment of defence lawyers.
- In February, former YUKOS oil company owner Mikhail Khodorkovskii and his former colleague Platon Lebedev, serving eight-year prison sentences following conviction for tax evasion and fraud in 2005, were transferred from pre-trial detention in Chita to face trial on new charges of money laundering and embezzlement. In March the new trial began in Moscow, amid concerns that it would fail to meet international standards of fair trial and that the further prosecution may have been politically motivated. The rights of the two defendants to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence for the second trial appeared to have been violated.
The authorities recognized racially or ethnically motivated violence as a "threat to national security". However, an effective programme of action to tackle racially motivated violence and racial discrimination by law enforcement officials has still to be implemented.
According to the NGO the SOVA Centre, by the end of the year at least 71 people had died and more than 330 were injured in 36 Russian regions as a result of racially motivated attacks. Anti-racist campaigners were also targeted by right-wing groups.
- In November, 26-year-old Ivan Khutorskoi was shot and killed near his home. He had participated in a number of anti-fascist public actions and had been threatened and attacked by unidentified people.
According to statistics from the Interior Ministry, in the first four months of the year 105 people were accused of, or under investigation for, "extremist" crimes, which included cases of racially motivated murder.
In November the Constitutional Court decided to extend a 10-year moratorium on executions and recommended abolishing the death penalty completely. The moratorium was due to expire when all regions had introduced jury trials, which was planned to happen in January 2010. The Court said the path towards full abolition was irreversible.