Reacting to news that Vladimir Kara-Murza, a political activist and journalist, has been sentenced to 25 years in jail by a Russian court for “high treason” and other politically motivated charges for speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Amnesty International’s Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said:
“Vladimir Kara-Murza’s 25-year prison sentence is yet another chilling example of the systematic repression of civil society, which has broadened and accelerated under the Kremlin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The so-called ‘crimes’ Vladimir Kara-Murza was tried for – speaking out against the invasion and advocacy on behalf of victims of human rights violations – are in fact acts of outstanding bravery. This verdict wrongly conflates human rights activism with ‘high treason’ and is reminiscent of Stalin-era repression.”
“A week ago, Vladimir Kara-Murza once again denounced the war in Ukraine in his closing statement to the court: “I know my verdict. I knew it a year ago when I saw in the mirror people in black uniforms and black masks running after my car. Such is the price for not being silent in Russia now. But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate,” he said.
“This day will come as inevitably as spring comes to replace even the frostiest winter. And then our society will open its eyes and be horrified by the terrible crimes that were committed on its behalf.”
On 17 April, the Moscow City Court sentenced Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent Russian political activist and journalist, to 25 years in prison for “high treason” (Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code), for participation in a human rights round table for “disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian Armed Forces” (Article 207.3(2)) when making a speech critical of the invasion to the Arizona House of Representatives and for “carrying out of activities of an undesirable organization” (Article 284.1(1)). The “high treason” charges were brought for his “cooperation with a NATO country” by way of public speeches in Lisbon, Helsinki and Washington DC, in which he condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian authorities have increasingly used these criminal charges to arrest, prosecute and convict human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents voicing their criticism of the invasion of Ukraine.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, a father of three, was a close associate of the prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in central Moscow in 2015, and cooperated with former prisoner of conscience Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who now lives in exile, and other political opposition groups, human rights NGOs and independent media. He is known for campaigning in support of the “Magnitsky list” and other targeted sanctions against people suspected of human rights abuses in Russia. He has survived two poisoning attempts, in 2015 and 2017. There has been no investigation by the Russian authorities into either poisoning.
Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested on 11 April 2022 near his home in Moscow. While in detention, his health deteriorated leading to the development of polyneuropathy in his both feet, according to his lawyers.
Amnesty International considers Vladimir Kara-Murza a prisoner of conscience as he has been convicted solely for his political beliefs. He should be immediately and unconditionally released.