Chairwoman Hautala today wrote to the Director of the Department of Execution of Punishments, Mr Aleksandr A. Reimer and to the Novosibirsk Prosecutor, Mr V.P. Ponomarov to express her deep concern and alarm over the news that Russian human rights defender Aleksei Sokolov has reportedly been beaten up by prison guards in FGU IZ-54/1 remand centre in Novosibirsk, Western Siberiaand reiterated her fears that Mr Sokolov is at severe risk of torture. [:]She called for the Russian authorities to guarantee the safety of Mr Sokolov while in prison.
It is understood that Mr Sokolov was transferred to the remand centre in Novosibirsk on 26 August from Yekaterinburg prison. According to local sources, shortly after his arrival in Novosibirsk, he was beaten up by prison guards and placed in solitary confinement for several hours. Chairwoman Hautala stresses that all such allegations must be effectively and promptly investigated by the Russian authorities. “Those responsible must be brought to justice,” she added.
According to information received Mr Sokolov shall be moved to another detention facility in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia. This is more than 2,000 kilometres away from his home in Yekaterinburg. This distance can inflict detrimental damage for the fairness of the further appeal announced by the lawyers of Mr Sokolov as the distance can effectively prevent communication between Mr Sokolov and his lawyers. Due to the distance, it will also be very difficult for Mr Sokolov to receive visits from his wife and family. Moreover, Chairwoman Hautala is concerned that Mr Sokolov could face further ill-treatment in Krasnoyarsk.
According to international human rights standards prisoners should be able to serve their sentence close to home.
Mr Sokolov was sentenced to five years imprisonment after reportedly profoundly flawed trial in May 2010. He was accused and sentenced of robbery and theft even after the key witnesses withdrew their claims. Later, his sentence was reduced to three years on appeal. It is understood that decision to move Mr Sokolov to Krasnoyarsk was made after his sentence was reduced on appeal. It is imperative that Mr Sokolov be returned to Yekaterinburg prison, close to his family and lawyers, Ms Hautala added.
Amnesty International is concerned that Aleksei Sokolov, the head of a Russian human rights organization, may be a prisoner of conscience, targeted for his human rights work.