Chairwoman Hautala addressed on 2 February an opening of exhibition of paintings and drawings from the trials of Mihail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. [:]
The opening of exhibition at the European Parliament was hosted by MEPs Graham Watson and Kristiina Ojuland, who in her opening speech expressed deep unease about the proceedings of the two cases but more so of the current state of democracy in Russia, stating that the trials seem to serve as a warning to anyone trying to defy Kremlin.
Other speakers included the former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and Memorial’s Executive Director Elena Zhemkova, winner of the European Parliament’s 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Kasyanov criticised the political interference in the cases while Zhemkova called guarding against the country slipping back into Stalinist era mindset.
In her speech Chairwoman Hautala condemned the relentless of persecution human rights defenders in Russia and noted as most recent example the harassment of the group of human rights activists who have been persistently barred from meeting at Triumfalnaia Square on the 31 of a month to voice their support to freedom of peaceful assembly as guaranteed by the Russian Constitution.
Police regularly break up the protests and during these clamp downs several people have been arrested, including on 31 January Oleg Orlov, Chair of human rights organisation Memorial, the winner of the 2009 European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner for freedom of thought. One month before, on 31 December, during the same regular demonstrations the police arrested another winner of the 2009 Sakharov Prize, Ludmila Alekseyeva. Ms Hautala stressed that despite Mr Orlov and Ms Alexeyeva swiftly were released within the same day of the arrest, she strongly condemns the arrests as both shocking and gravely disappointing act by the Russian authorities.
She also stressed that work of this nature should be appreciated and supported by any country which willingly has committed itself to obligations under international human rights treaties. “Indeed, right of the freedom of expression is a prerequisite of a democratic state of any kind and freedom of assembly is an essential condition of the freedom of expression”, she added.
The exhibition consists of about 30 courtroom paintings and drawings by different artists. After the European Parliament the exhibition will go to France. It has already visited London and Moscow.