Staunton, Dec. 1 – To the list of techniques the Putin regime uses to suppress rights activists it doesn’t like has been added a new one – the stripping of Russian citizenship from those who have acquired it in the past and their expulsion or threatened expulsion back to their previous homelands where in many cases the governments impose severe sentences.
Moscow journalist Sofya Presnyakova says that “formally” this can be done “only if someone in the course of receiving citizenship intentionally provided false information or engaged in terrorism or crimes against the constitutional system. In fact, however, the authorities frequently deprive people of citizenship for ‘incorrect’ political attitudes, activism or assistance to migrants.”
To make her point, she cites five recent cases and the opinions of two legal experts about this situation in Russia today (theins.ru/obshestvo/246276).
Of the five activists, the FSB sought to strip Bakhrom Khamroyev, a Memorial human rights activist, of his citizenship because he supposedly had listed a fictious marriage to get it. In fact, the marriage was legitimate but was dissolved five years later. Courts ruled in his favor, and the activist hopes this is the end of it.
But others weren’t so lucky. Izzat Amon, head of the Moscow Tojikon Center which helps Tajik migrant workers in Russia, was stripped of his Russian citizenship on murky ground, deported to Tajikistan, and there sentenced to ten years behind bars. The same thing happened to Imam Saidnuriddin Rozikov who was accused in Russia of being involved with fundamentalist Islam, sent back to Tajikistan, and then unsuccessfully charged with extremism there.
Buryat activist Barazdat Antonyan lost his Russian citizenship nominally because he changed his name, something Russian law allows and that he followed, but an action his supporters say was because of his political activism. He fled the country but has suffered because of medical problems as his medicine is in Buryatia and he is now in Ukraine.
And Elvin Isayev, a blogger and journalist for Azer Freedom TV, was stripped of his citizenship supposedly for violating the conditions of his residence in Russia but in fact because of his criticism of the Aliyev regime. He fled to Ukraine but was kidnapped, turned up in Azerbaijan, and after a trial sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Commenting on these cases, Timofey Shirokov, a lawyer who defends refugees, says that the Russian authorities are increasingly using such tactics to silence their critics. And Roza Magomedova, a lawyer for Civic Support, says many are at risk because they came to Russia in the early 1990s when record keeping was minimal and it is easy to suggest there were mistakes.