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Appeal to the International Community
Материалы к выставке "Осторожно, религия!"

 

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has filed charges against Yuri Samodurov, Ludmila Vasilovskaya, and Anna Mikhalchuk in committing actions  “directed at inciting hatred and strife, as well as demeaning the dignity of a group of people because of their nationality and religious convictions” (article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

 

Yuri Samodurov is the director and Ludmila Vasilovskaya a staff member of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center, the site in January 2003 of an exhibit of contemporary art called “Caution, Religion!”  Anna Mikhalchuk is one of the artists who participated in the exhibit.  On the fourth day of the show, the exhibition was vandalized.   Under interrogation the vandals justified their behavior by stating that their religious feelings had been offended; they recounted their premeditated plans for attacking the show.  However, the case against the hooligans was quickly dropped. The prosecutor then started a case against the show’s organizers and turned it over to the courts.

 

The prosecutor’s position is in blatant contradiction to the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Convictions,” but the prosecutor is unembarrassed by this.  Or by the unprecedented application of the law against a human rights organization instead of the multiplying number of fascist-like youths.  The unbridled desire to punish the Museum and Center in the person of its director, Yuri Samodurov, under any excuse at all, is self-evident.  Since the present General Prosecutor has proclaimed his office to be the “tsar’s eye,” there is only one explanation:  the prosecutor’s office is fulfilling an order from the higher echelons of power.

 

We have reason to state that this is revenge on Yuri Samodurov for his unflagging efforts since 1994 at the Museum and Center working for an end to the war in Chechnya and a real normalization of the situation there.  And for permitting public showings of a film that discusses the possibility of the FSB’s role in organizing the building explosions in Moscow.  An independent nongovernmental organization is being punished for its independence.

 

In the past, government officials only talked about the danger of independent NGOs, now the authorities have moved onto the attack.  This returns the country to the time when criminal trials of dissidents were the norm.  The country has begun persecuting people for political reasons and there are now political prisoners.  Therefore we are appealing to the international community, the way Andrei Sakharov did in analogous situations.

 

The trial will be open.  It is set to be heard on June 15, 2004, at the Tagansky Interregional Court (109147, Marxistsky pereulok, 1/32).

 

We ask international human rights organizations to speak out about this and if possible to send observers to the trial.

 

We ask the mass media—particularly outside Russia—to cover the trial and send their correspondents.

 

We appeal for cooperation and support from the leaders of all democratic states, in particular, from Europe and America, the Council of Europe and the US Congress.  We ask you to put pressure on Russia’s executive branch and not allow it to liquidate the country’s independent human rights organizations.  Their existence is the only guarantee that someday society will have control over the authorities in Russia.

 

The Board of the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov –the Andrei Sakharov Foundation—and the Board of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center.

 

May 25 2004

 

Elena Bonner

Boris Bolotovsky

Sergei Kovalev

Leonid Litinsky

Anatoly Shabad

 

THE TRIAL IS SET FOR TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2004