Journalist Imprisoned on Dubious Drug Charges in Chechnya

Update: 05 Dec 2017 No state reply yet
Year 08 Sep 2016 Country Russian Federation Category Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , PEN , RSF Alert level Level 1
08 Sep 2016 Russian Federation Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , PEN , RSF Level 1
No state reply yet

On 5 September 2016, a Chechen court sentenced Zhalaudi Geriev, a journalist working for Caucasian Knot, an independent Russian media portal, to three years in prison on charges of drug possession in large quantities. The charges have been condemned by media freedom and human rights groups and are widely considered to be trumped up. Caucasian Knot is well known for its reporting on human rights abuses across the Caucasus and southern Russia, including investigations into corruption and other abuses committed by the Chechen authorities. Geriev was detained by police on 16 April 2016, and held in pre-trial detention until his conviction. During his trial, he told the court that he had been abducted by three armed men, subjected to torture and ill-treatment and had drugs planted on him, before being transferred to police custody. He stated that he was then forced to sign a confession admitting that drugs found in his backpack belonged to him. Geriev retracted his confession during the trial, on the grounds that it was made under duress. His defense lawyer has raised concerns about serious procedural flaws during the investigation and trial, arguing that no credible evidence was presented. Geriev will appeal his sentence. Alert : 1 detention

Updates

05 Dec 2017 : On 10 October 2017 Geriev’s lawyers filed a complaint with the chairman of the Supreme Court of Russia, asking him to cancel the 31 July decision. On 1 December 2017 the complaint was rejected.
04 Aug 2017 : On 31 July 2017 the Russian Supreme Court rejected the cassation appeals.
26 Jun 2017 : On 26 June 2017 Geriev’s lawyers filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.
05 May 2017 : On 4 May 2017 Geriev’s lawyers filed a second cassation appeal to the Russian Supreme Court, asking for the violations committed by the Chechen courts to be removed and for the case to be returned to the first-instance court.
01 Apr 2017 : In April 2017, Geriev’s lawyers have appealed to the Investigating Department for Chechnya of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) with a request to retract the sixth refusal to open a criminal case against Zhalaudi Geriev’s kidnappers.
28 Dec 2016 : On 28 December 2016, the Supreme Court of Chechnya upheld the sentence of 3 year's imprisonment.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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