February 20, 2017

Arrest of Environmentalist on Murder Charges May be Attempt of Further Intimidation, CCS Says

The Committee of Concerned Scientists wrote on behalf of Russian zoologist and environmental activist Suren Gazaryan and geologist Evgeny Vitishenko in May 2012 to protest criminal charges designed to retaliate for environmental inspections. Those charges resulted in a three-year suspended sentence for Dr. Gazaryan. In August 2012, Dr. Gazaryan was charged with attempted murder of a security guard. Sources in Russia believe that the charge was fabricated to prevent further inspections by Dr. Gazaryan, CCS wrote in a letter to federal and regional authorities.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russian Federation

December 4, 2012

Dear President Putin:

We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write to you now in support of Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist and member of the Russian Academy of Science, who was arrested on August 2, 2012 for allegedly threatening to murder a security guard near a dacha on the Cape of Idokapas.

On May 9, 2012, we wrote to local and provincial authorities concerning Dr. Gazaryan and his colleague Evgeny Vitishko, a geologist, both members of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (Environmental Watch). They were arrested during a protest in a protected forest at a large compound, which they believe was built in violation of the environmental laws of Russia. The protesters damaged the fence around the compound in order to reach the public areas within. Dr. Gazaryan and his lawyer returned to the site to determine the extent of damage to the fence. According to protestors, Dr. Gazaryan and his lawyer were beaten by guards and held overnight in jail. Dr. Gazaryan was subsequently sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence for defacing what he claimed was an illegal fence.

We are writing you today because we understand that on August 2, 2012, Dr. Gazaryan was again arrested, this time on the charge of threatening to murder a security guard at a dacha on the Cape of Idokapas. Dr. Gazaryan denies the allegations against him. According to Environmental Watch, Dr. Gazaryan was carrying out a legitimate inspection of a pier on a public shore being constructed in the Glendzhik area. It appears that the allegation of a murder threat has been fabricated to prevent further inspections by Dr. Gazaryan.

As stated in our earlier letter, we believe that the actions of the authorities are designed to deter and intimidate Dr. Gazaryan and others from engaging in protests against actions that they believe violate Russian law. These expressions of opinion and the right to due process of law are guaranteed under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory.

Therefore, we urge you to investigate the circumstances of both these cases and thoroughly address the conduct of the guards and local authorities involved. We also ask that Dr. Gazaryan and others members of Environmental Watch be permitted to carry out peaceful inspections and protests, consistent with the fundamental right of citizens to express their views in a free and stable society. Furthermore, we request that Dr. Gazaryan be afforded the full complement of rights afforded under the judicial system contemplated by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Sincerely yours,

Eugene Chudnovsky
Alexander Greer
Joel Lebowitz
Walter Reich
Paul Plotz

Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists

Copies to:

Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation
Boashaya Dmitrovka
15a GSP-3, Moscow 125993 RUSSIA
Information Telephone: + 7 (495) 987-56-56

Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak
Embassy of the Russian Federation to the US
2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007

Ambassador Michael McFaul, US Ambassador to the Russian Federation
US Embassy to the Russian Federation
Bolshoy Deviatinsky Pereulok No. 8
Moscow 121099, Russian Federation


Download this sample letter and send it to:

Mr. Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
The Kremlin
Ilyinka Street No. 23
103132 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Russian Zoologist Gazaryan and Geologist Vitishenko Threatened with Criminal Charges for Environmental Protest