Court Case Begins Against Kostroma Activist

The courthouse of the prosecutor general of Russia. Source: court case has begun in the Russian city of Kostroma against an activist known for advocating legislation to make the federal government more accountable to its citizens, reports

Roman Zamurayev, a member of the unofficial social organization Army of the Will of the People (AWP), is charged with extremism by printing and distributing material “inciting hatred or enmity” or otherwise degrading human dignity.

The activist’s activities have largely focused on the organization’s stated goal to draft and implement a law to increase the accountability of the president and deputies of the Federal Assembly to Russian citizens.

The material cited in the court case is a pamphlet entitled “You Vote – It’s For You to Judge!” that included sections written by Zamurayev and was declared by Russian authorities to be extremist in April 2008.

The case against Zamurayev alleges that the sentence fragment “if you are a person and not only an organism” constitutes hate speech, an offense punishable by up to five years in prison under Russia’s federal criminal code.

However, a linguistic analysis by Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB) found no evidence of extremism in the pamphlet. The case against Zamurayev is currently relying on the single testimony of Madina Fokina of Tula State University, who claims that the aforementioned sentence is derogatory towards people who do not choose to become members of the AWP.

The next session of the court case is set for February 1, 2010.

The Moscow City Court upheld a ruling in May 2009 to shut down Duel, the AWP official newspaper. According to the court decision, the newspaper published material “containing information justifying and calling for extremist activity.” Zamurayev had used Duel to publish various drafts of his initiative to strengthen government accountability.