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Annual Prison Census 2008: Russia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 4 December 2008
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2008: Russia, 4 December 2008, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2008


Boris Stomakhin, Radikalnaya Politika
IMPRISONED: March 22, 2006

Stomakhin, editor of the small-circulation monthly newspaper Radikalnaya Politika (Radical Politics), was imprisoned on March 22, 2006, on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and making public calls to extremist activity. The Butyrsky District Court of Moscow sentenced Stomakhin to five years behind bars that November. Stomakhin, his family, and his defense team said his imprisonment was retaliation for his sharp criticism of the Kremlin's policies in the southern republic of Chechnya.

In her ruling, Judge Lyubov Ishmuratova said Stomakhin's articles "approved Chechen terrorists' criminal actions aimed at the annihilation of the Russian people as an ethnicity." The ruling quoted Stomakhin as writing: "Let tens of new Chechen snipers take their positions in the mountain ridges and the city ruins and let hundreds, thousands of aggressors fall under righteous bullets! No mercy! Death to the Russian occupiers!... The Chechens have the full moral right to bomb everything they want in Russia."

Stomakhin, who had pleaded not guilty, said he was "tried for his views and not for any real crime.... In the articles, I expressed my opinion, with which people were free to agree or disagree," the news agency RIA-Novosti reported. He said an opinion was not a "call to action."

Police arrested Stomakhin in March 2006, a day after he fell from the window of his fourth-floor Moscow apartment while trying to elude police, according to local press reports. Stomakhin broke both his legs and suffered a back injury.

In May 2007, the Moscow City Court reviewed Stomakhin's appeal for early release but left the verdict unchanged, the independent news agency Kavkazky Uzel reported. On June 25, 2007, Stomakhin was transferred from a Moscow prison to a prison in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Officials did not tell Stomakhin, his family, or his lawyer what prompted the transfer or how long it would last, local press reports said.

In February 2008, the Tonshaevsky Regional Court denied an appeal for Stomakhin's early release, the Moscow-based nonprofit group For Human Rights told Kavkazky Uzel. Representatives of the group met with Stomakhin briefly and told the press after his court hearing that they were concerned about Stomakhin's health in prison; the fall from the window in 2006 left him with a permanent limp and spinal cord damage. He was serving his term in a prison colony in the village of Burepolom, Nizhny Novgorod region.

Anatoly Sardayev, Mordoviya Segodnya
IMPRISONED: June 29, 2007

On June 29, 2007, the Lenin District Court in the city of Saransk found Sardayev, editor of the independent weekly Mordoviya Segodnya, guilty of misusing funds during his tenure as head of the Mordoviya postal service in 2004. Sardayev was sentenced to five and a half years in jail and fined 105,000 rubles (US$3,800). He was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read. Three months after Sardayev's jailing, Mordoviya Segodnya closed for financial reasons, according to local press reports.

Sardayev's colleagues said they believed he was targeted because of Mordoviya Segodnya's criticism of the governor, Nikolai Merkushkin. The Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) detailed the conflict between Sardayev and Merkushkin, which began in 2004.

Sardayev, a member of the Mordoviya parliament at the time, irritated local authorities that year by making repeated inquiries into the legality of tax breaks the regional government had given to Mordoviya's energy companies. The Lenin District Prosecutor's Office of Saransk opened a criminal investigation into what prosecutors said was his abuse of authority, forgery, and misappropriation of funds. About six months later, Saransk prosecutors imprisoned Sardayev for a week for allegedly failing to appear in court. The detention coincided with a Mordoviya Segodnya special edition that detailed businesses owned by Merkushkin and his family, according to local news reports.

In the 2007 case, Mordoviya postal employees testified that Sardayev had used postal service money to build a public tennis court and to restore an old post office building in Saransk, CJES correspondent Igor Telin reported.

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