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What did Alexander Gaponenko break up?
It is not the first time when a prominent Latvian human rights defender, political activist, Doctor of Economics and author of a range of scientific researches Alexander Gaponenko is deliberately put into the criminal trouble. Barely he could knock down the accusations of stirring up racial and ethnic hatred, the Latvian authorities are cooking for him a new criminal case for anti-Latvian activities directed at breaking up territorial integrity of the country. Up to 8 years’ imprisonment…..
Alexander Ganonenko is willingly giving interviews, publishing books and shooting documentaries. It stands to reason, that such active civil position of Doctor of Economics heading several social organizations and human rights movements in the country was pretty worrying for the ruling authorities of Latvia. They considered him as a threat trying already several times to exert moral and physiological pressure on a stubborn Co-Chairman of the Non-Citizen Congress by means of law-enforcement services.
They tried open spying along with very scrupulous detailed airport check-ups where he was separated from the rest of the crowd and taken aside to be searched and interrogated. When all these methods failed, some Latvian and, even some Russian-language, mass media started demonizing and mocking at Gaponenko as well as some other leaders of the Russian civil movements. Few years ago Gaponenko was noticed by the Security Police – he was detained for 14 hours without PC or any other means of communication, his home and summer house being searched. The fault of the troublemaker, at this, was just his posts on Facebook. What was criminal about them? Just his personal assertion regarding the arrival of American tanks to Latvia in 2016. A. Gaponenko shared his concerns supposing that the U.S. tanks in Latvia were waiting for suppression of uprising of the Russian-speaking community and for protection of the Latvian Nazis going on Waffen-SS marches on March 16 in the center of Riga.
Alexander Gaponenko – a well-known human rights defender of Russian-speaking minority in Latvia
Shortly afterwards, the author of the posts was arrested for the first time being suspected of stirring up racial and ethnic hatred. This was a trigger for the whole affair, so to speak. Gaponenko’s case was passed on to the court where it is to be reviewed on June 19, 2018.
As a rule, the court outcome of such cases, at least until now, is absolutely futile. However, as per A. Gilman, who was personally subject to all these unpleasant and rather expensive court proceedings, their main purpose is not to put somebody to jail, but to intimidate and send the others the message not to do the same.
Frankly speaking, such tactics proved effectiveness in a few other cases in Latvia helping to neutralize several beginning leaders of the Russian civil movements without resorting to legal action. By way of intimidating their family members, business partners, company co-owners where the public activists used to work…
However all these methods did not work in case of the Co-Chairman of Non-Citizen Congress of Latvia. Being pressed by the fake criminal cases, he is continuing to fight for the rights of Russian-speaking population in Latvia, as a politician and an expert, he is giving interviews to both Western and Eastern journalists. At this, Gaponenko never minced his words always making straight-from-the-shoulder remarks and tough talk regardless of any positions or names.
The human rights defender is well-known for his rhetoric against the Latvian authorities
When Latvia was gripped by a new campaign aimed at liquidation of school education in the Russian language, Alexander became one of the most active defenders of the Russian schools. He took part in all street strikes and protest marches, launching invectives and calling people for protection of their rights by all available legal ways.
Making a speech on April 4 during the March of the Indignant Parents, Gaponenko supported the Russian State’s proposal on introducing anti-Latvian sanctions because of the decision to transfer all schools for national minorities to teaching in the state Latvian language only.
“The session of the Headquarters for Protection of Russian Schools dated April 2 resulted in issuing the assignment to compose a list of sponsors of the Russophobian parties to be further directed to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, so that the Russian Parliament members knew who to strike first. However, this should not become the only measure to confine to. It is necessary to enter more economic sanctions as a considerable part of Russophobes feeds at the Russian transit railways and cargo transshipment stations. Cancellation of supplies would reduce production volumes and income to the Latvian budget by 10-15%, which would be very sensible to the country. Let the Latvian people voting for the ruling coalition feel what it’s like by their own experience,” Alexander said publishing on Facebook a list of major Russophobes of Latvia.
Literary on that very day, on April 4, a criminal case was initiated against him under the article for anti-state activity directed, on top of everything else, at breaking up territorial integrity, taking over the state power or the state regime.
Truly speaking, the suspect and the society got to know about this much later, on April 20, when there was a search of his house, which ended up with putting the honored professor to prison.
A few days before, Alexander Gaponenko predicted forthcoming development of the political situation in Latvia. Referring to his American friend as a source of information, he made quite a bold and unexpected assertion on his Facebook account about staging the Russian uprising scenery on the city streets of Latvia in the course of the NATO combat maneuvers scheduled for May 12 – 15. One part of the military will represent Russian rebels, the other will account for “forces of democracy and progress”. Gaponenko was arrested two days afterwards. At this, his case evoked much indignation and was classified as secret for unknown reasons.
A middle-aged person chained in wristbands was first placed to the temporary detention facility. The next day the court sentenced arrested Gaponenko to the 2-month imprisonment.
Gaponenko’s adherents did not sit at home these days. Deputy Miroslav Mitrofanov wrote to the European Parliament about the arrest of Co-Chairman of the Non-Citizen Congress of Latvia, where exactly at this time there were hearings on cases of Non-Citizens of Latvia and Estonia. Latvian Russian Union left-wing political party where Gaponenko recently enrolled conducted a picketing next to the Security Police building, demanding liberation of the political prisoner.
Meeting in support of Alexander Gaponenko in Riga
Many renowned Russian politicians and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation advocated for the Russian compatriot, whereas Europe, alas, is keeping silence…. Though, for instance, arrests in Armenia caused a prompt reaction of Europe calling to set the arrested during the protest strike free. People are waiting for the same prompt response from the West in relation to the public activist put in jail experiencing such a strict form of punishment as 2-month imprisonment. For his Facebook posts only.
Riga District Court is going to review an appeal of the court sentence on arrest of Alexander Gaponenko submitted by his attorney. In case the District Court declines the appeal, the attorney is going to address another appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
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