Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On April 20th the Latvian Security Police detained the public figure, activist of the HQ of the protection of Russian schools, and the head of the “Congress of Non-Citizens“ Aleksandr Gaponenko.
The detention was carried out within the framework of criminal proceedings that begun on April 4th concerning actions aimed against the State sovereignty, territorial integrity, the government, or the political system of Latvia. This threatens a period of up to 8 years of imprisonment.
Within the framework of the criminal proceedings that were initiated, employees of the Latvian Security Police carried out authorised searches of places that the suspect is connected to.
In February of 2017 the case in which Gaponenko is accused of kindling national discord was filed in court. Its consideration is appointed for July 19th.
Recently the deputy head of the Latvian Sejm Ainars Latkovskis asked the Latvian Security Police to give an assessment of Gaponenko’s publications on Facebook about ethnic cleansing taking place in Riga in May with the help of Americans.
Gaponenko described a scenario where American military personnel disguising themselves as Russian-speakers initiate riots that will be reflected in the media as riots initiated by Russia, and then the Latvian Security Police will arrest Russian-speaking people, which will end with the creation of a concentration camp on the territory of the Skonto stadium.
“Are the Latvian authorities indeed so weak and cowardly that a 64-year-old professor poses a threat to the independence of the country and the political system? Aleksandr Gaponenko had the full right to do what he did: he distributed information that is important from his point of view,” said the Russian union of Latvia on its Facebook page.
“In Latvia full totalitarian terror against Russian activists has begun. Gaponenko is a remarkable activist and writer, but isn’t in any way a spy or a terrorist. His arrest actually means the beginning of the persecution in the European Union just for having a Russian identity,” wrote the Russian publicist Egor Kholmogorov on his Telegram channel.
On April 21st the court of the Vidzeme District of Riga made the decision to take Gaponenko into custody – he was transferred to the Riga central prison. Gaponenko said that during his detention physical force was used against him. He connects his arrest to his fight against the reform – the transition in schools for ethnic minorities to studying Latvian [and not Russian – ed] – and also publications on social networks. In protest at his illegal detention he announced a hunger strike, which he stopped on April 24th.
[Aleksandr describes how in custody he was beaten and handcuffed for 11 hours]
On April 27th the Riga district court rejected the appeal to change the measure of restraint, and thus left under Gaponenko under arrest.
A protest action took place on Monday, April 30th, in the capitals of four states — Estonia, Germany, Moldova, and Russia. In Tallinn a picket took place near the Embassy of Latvia at the address 10 Tõnismägi.
“Today the international picket ‘Freedom for Aleksandr Gaponenko’ took place. We thank the representatives of the party of Communists of Moldova and the representative of the Russian Community of Moldova for their participation!!!
The International Association of Russian-speaking Lawyers (IARL) and the Guild of Russian Lawyers (GRL) strongly condemn the unlawful arrest of the well-known human rights activist Aleksandr Gaponenko in Latvia under a false pretext!
Gaponenko’s ‘crime’ is that he openly expressed on social networks his critical opinion about the policies of the Latvian authorities aimed at inciting Russophobic passions in Latvia and limiting the rights of minorities living in this country to receive an education in their native language!
The human rights defender – known for his struggle against the closure of Russian schools in Latvia, against the glorification of the Latvian SS troops known for their atrocities and their participation in the Holocaust during the Great Patriotic War, and against the transformation of Russian compatriots living in Latvia into second-class citizens – faces 8 years in prison!
The actions of the Latvian authorities – who with all their strength try to demonstrate their support for the anti-Russian policy of the leading Western countries, violate the norms of international law and the basic principles of the European Union, the provisions of international legal instruments on human rights and the rights of national minorities – demonstrate a deep gap between statements of loyalty towards democratic values and methods of real policies. Such actions are frankly aimed at eliminating freedom of speech, opinion, and the dissemination of information, which is unacceptable in a democratic society.
The arrest of A. Gaponenko is designed to intimidate the Russian-speaking residents of Latvia and all those who stand in defense of Russian-speaking education in the country.”
[Chișinău, the EU representative center to Moldova, international picket “Freedom for Aleksandr Gaponenko”]
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