25 Jul 2019 12:54

Purpose of night searches of opposition activists' residences was pressure - human rights council

MOSCOW. July 25 (Interfax) - The recent searches of opposition activists' residences were aimed at pressuring them, the chairman of the commission on civic control over law enforcement agencies of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council, Igor Kalyapin, said.

"Very large doubts arise about whether these measures are actually founded. I have big doubts that the searches were conducted because of there actually being reasons to believe that they have prohibited items in their residences. I have big suspicions that all these things are being done to pile on pressure because the people took part in opposition activities. It's a form of punishment," Kalyapin told Interfax on Thursday.

Kalyapin said he does not believe the opposition obstructed the electoral process. "Who is obstructing this process? Clearly, it's the body that's found thousands of signatures to be invalid. I personally know people who signed and whose signatures have been found invalid. Who's disrupting the electoral process? It certainly isn't Dmitry Gudkov," he said.

"And Gudkov, who is outraged and is calling on others to be outraged, gets implicated in a criminal case. It would seem the searches are being carried out to find some kind of tool used [by the opposition] to make people go to rallies, a rug beater, whatever. It's just a method: to come into a person's residence, disgrace him in front of his neighbors, call witnesses to investigative actions from all the floors," Kalyapin said.

"Like in the situation with Ivan Golunov [the journalist on whom drugs were found, but the case was closed after media reports], Gudkov, anyone - the same things happen. The court issues a search warrant, the prosecutor gives his decision. And the actions by the bodies that are supposed to protect our constitutional rights remain outside the line of vision of public opinion; no one is outraged about them. We're used to the idea that the court is an office that stamps motions by investigators, some operative services for actions that violate our rights," Kalyapin said.

According to earlier reports, law enforcement officials searched the residences of unregistered candidate Dmitry Gudkov, Director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and unregistered candidate Ivan Zhdanov, and Gudkov's team's candidate Alexander Solovyov in the early hours of Thursday. Zhdanov was taken to a questioning in the middle of the night immediately after the search.

The searches were conducted in connection with a case involving obstruction of the work of the Moscow City Elections Commission.

On July 14, an unauthorized protest in the form of a mass meeting between independent candidates and their voters, which, according to the Interior Ministry, was attended by about 1,000 people, took place in Moscow. The protesters demanded that the Moscow City Elections Commission register the independent candidates and not discard signatures they collected on technicalities. The protest began in the Novopushkinsky Park and then the protesters walked to the Moscow mayor's office and the Moscow City Elections Commission.