Moscow judges are getting meaner New investigative report by ‘Proekt’ shows how the capital’s courts are harsher than ever against arrested protesters
Moscow judges are losing their patience with political activists. A new investigative report by Proekt found that the capital’s courts are now jailing arrested demonstrators far more often than in years past. Journalists studied case records involving suspects arrested at opposition rallies earlier this year and at protests in 2017 and 2019, when similar-size crowds turned out against corruption and election fraud, respectively. Despite the fact that half of the records for the 2021 cases are still unpublished, Proekt collected evidence showing that Moscow judges are now much harsher in trials involving protesters.
According to Proekt’s data, Moscow courts heard 5,716 administrative cases against protesters in 2021 — more than twice the 2,466 cases heard in 2019 and more than six times the 905 cases that went to trial in 2017. Incarceration also skyrocketed: Moscow judges jailed a third of all defendants this year (3,751 people) — up from just five percent in 2019 (112 people) and nine percent in 2017 (62 people).
The city’s courts also heard twice as many cases against women this year (up to 15 percent, while women were only seven-to-eight percent in previous years). The women protesters who were brought before judges in 2021 were far likelier to get jail sentences, as well: 45 percent of these 455 arrested women ended up jailed. In the 2017 and 2019 protests, Moscow’s courts only jailed about four percent of the arrested women.
Overall, adult protesters arrested at Moscow’s protests in January and February 2021 spent 6,736 days in jail — almost five times as much as activists arrested at the previous demonstrations.
On January 23 and 31, large crowds gathered in more than 100 cities across Russia to protest the arrest of Alexey Navalny, who was apprehended for supposed parole violations and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on February 2, sparking more protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, again leading to mass arrests. In all three days of protests, police arrested more than 11,000 people and subsequently launched dozens of felony criminal investigations.
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