Staunton, December 2 – Many in the West and even some in Russia comfort themselves with the fact that in many cases those convicted of extremism are given suspended sentences, but they seldom recognize that any such conviction -- regardless of whether there is jail time involved -- brings with it a lifetime of punishments, Sergey Khazov-Kassia says.
The Radio Svoboda correspondent draws that conclusion on the basis of detailed discussions of what has happened to three Russian citizens who have been convicted of extremism and then have tried to resume their lives, something that the authorities have made almost completely impossible ().
Since Russia’s Federal Service for Financial Monitoring was set up to fight the financing of terrorism and money laundering created its “List of Terrorists and Extremists,” Khazov-Kassia says, 8738 people have been put on that list. Initially, most on the list were convicted of terrorism; now, ever more are those charged with extremism or inciting hatred of other groups.
Overwhelmingly, those put on the list recently were those charged with crimes related to reposting on the Internet, hostility to one or another ethnic group or religion, or, since 2014, making comments calling into question Moscow’s Anschluss of Crimea. In many cases, observers say, these charges are not only absurd but trumped up the authorities.
“The majority of ‘the extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ are put on the list even before the court hears their cases. To get off it is practically impossible,” the journalist says. “In the last 17 years, only four have been taken off the list. Initially the freedom of those on it were not limited, but amendments to the law from 2013 made thousands second class citizens.”
In Putin’s Russia, as a result of this list, “it is sufficient to be suspected of extremism or terrorism to be deprived of access to bank services and payment cards, the opportunity to purchase or sell property, to inherit property from others, to get insurance,” or in some cases to receive government benefits. And many private firms won’t hire them.
The pattern Khazov-Kassia reports is yet another indication of way in which the Putin regime is imposing draconian punishments without a court decision – and getting credit in some quarters for a more tolerant approach that it does not in fact deserve.