NewsNobel laureate's co-chair jailed in Russia

Nobel laureate's co‑chair jailed in Russia

Right after the verdict was announced, Oleg Orlov was handcuffed.
Right after the verdict was announced, Oleg Orlov was handcuffed.
Images source: © PAP | SERGEI ILNITSKY

3:11 AM EST, February 28, 2024

The appellate court mandated the annulment of the prior judgment, calling for a retrial.

Orlov, a co-chair of the Nobel Prize-winning "Memorial" organization, remained undisturbed throughout the trial, reading Franz Kafka's "The Trial" from the defendants' bench.

In October 2023, he informed BBC journalists that the charges against him were based on an article titled "Public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and to maintain international peace and security". He pointed out that the Russian constitution guaranteed his right to free speech.

Orlov specified, "Secondly, the events in Ukraine, plainly speaking, constitute a war that goes against Russia's and its citizens' interests," in a BBC interview.

In his concluding remarks at his most recent trial, Orlov lamented over a Russia "increasingly descending into darkness". He argued that the demise of Navalny or the judicial persecution faced by other critics was a clear "strangulation of freedom".

Legal justifications for silencing dissenting voices

Oleg Orlov represents yet another government critic whose sentence was escalated to imprisonment. Boris Kagarlitsky, a noted sociologist, was previously convicted of "public justification of terrorism" due to his remarks on the 2022 attack on the Crimean bridge. The prosecution also challenged this verdict. In early February, Kagarlitsky received a five-year prison sentence.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russian legislators have enacted an array of repressive laws, facilitating the punishment of "inconvenient" critics.

Besides criminalizing the "discreditation" of the military, the Russian criminal code now also penalizes "public dissemination of knowingly false information about the actions of the Russian armed forces".

Often dubbed "the misinformation law," it targets outspoken Kremlin critics, imprisoning individuals like Ilya Yashin. Last year, Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Kremlin critic and anti-war activist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 25 years in a penal colony.

Experts ironically note that it appears the most vocal opponents of Putin have been systematically removed from the political arena.

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