jo abbess | 12.07.2006 22:43 | G8 Russia 2006
23 protesters have been detained as part of Putin’s campaign to suppress G8 protests in St Petersburg. The omnipresent OMON Police, part of 20,000 extra troops patrolling the city began picking up activists over the weekend. If you are lucky enough to have obtained a Russian visa and circumnavigated the closure of both the airport and the Gulf of Finland to have coped with the cancellations of many transport services both in and out of St Petersburg, to actually arrive here, simply carrying anti-G8 leaflets can get you arrested and imprisoned, most likely for ten days.
Two German cyclists, Henning and Eike, photography students from the University of Bielefeld, were arrested on Sunday evening outside the apartment where they were staying. Travelling by bicycle from Berlin as part of the Bike Caravan 2006, the group hoped to actively protest the summit while demonstrating the examples of alternative energies through cycling and working together along their tour from Berlin to Russia. Despite providing valid identification and passports, they, along with their Russian friend who had come to assist, were taken to the police station for further questioning.
From the time of their arrest on Sunday until their brief release on Monday afternoon, the Germans were given no legal aid, no food or water and were not advised what they were being charged with. Although Russian law stipulates that suspects may not be held for longer than three hours without charge, the cyclists were held for at least twelve hours. It was reported that this was due to the lack of an available German translator.
Police searched the detainee’s accomodation and questioned their neighbours. Initially the detainess were advised that they were suspected of provocative actions against the Russian Federation.
On Monday evening Henning and Eike were redetained and given the specifics of their charge, that they had urinated in a garden. Following this advice they were then granted access to legal advice. They have now been sentenced to 10 days in prison under the charge of ‘mild hooliganism’. This charge is a favourite of the Russian authorities. It is an umbrella term which includes incitement of racial hatred, causing public unrest, causing danger to public security and order, and public urination. The penalty for this offence is usually either 5-15 days in prison or a fine of 500 rubles (15€). As restrictions in place for the period of the summit rule out the option of the fine, all those charged face imprisonment.
There was also a report that 7 eco-activists from Ekozachita (EcoDefence) and Groza (Storm) have also been detained while campaigning against nuclear power near the Bronze Horseman Monument in central St Petersburg. 6 activists from the Siberian Confederation of Labour were stopped at Ekaterinburg and removed from their St Petersburg bound train. These latest actions follow on from systematic police raids on the homes of activists known to the police in the previous fortnight. Police visited their homes, interrogating relatives and neighbours before cautioning activists to avoid participation in any protests. The office of the legal team of the Network against the G8 was raided on Monday and a computer was confiscated.
The Second Russian Social Forum which is setting up an anti-globalist camp at Kirov Stadium has been refused permission to hold the planned protest march on July 15, on the grounds that it would cause discomfort to the general public and the amount of traffic caused. The decision to disallow the march, which was due to leave from Kirov Stadium to the Aurora battleship, a route of approximately 8km, will be appealed. The Aurora battleship is the closest that any demonstration was allowed to approach the city centre which is closed to all demonstrations.