On 31 December group of human rights and democracy activists were holding their monthly demonstration in Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow in support of their constitutional right to freedom of assembly, when hundreds of police officers broke up the protest, and arrested several people, including Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the winner of the 2009 European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner for freedom of thought.
Despite Ms Alexeyeva swiftly secured the release of the activists and herself, Chairwoman Hautala strongly condemns the arrest as both shocking and gravely disappointing act by the Russian authorities.
Ms Alexeyeva was awarded the prestigious and internationally acclaimed European Parliament human rights award on 16. December 2009 for her life-long contribution to the human rights in Russia and beyond. Chairwoman Hautala stressed that work of this nature should be appreciated and supported by any country which considers itself to be a democracy. Right to exercise the freedom of speech and expression are a prerequisite of a democratic state, she added. Moreover, the Russian authorities must guarantee the safety of all human rights defenders in Russia and ensure that they can work without harrasment.
Chairwoman Hautala calls for the Russian authorities to release all detained human rights activists immediately. While in detention, the authorities must ensure that activists and all other human rigths defenders are not ill-treated.