I am human rights defender from Kalach-on-Don in Volgograd region, in southwest Russia. I´m being persecuted in connection with my lawful human rights work.
Case of Igor Nagavkin
Igor Nagavkin (b.18/05/1980) is a human rights defender from Kalach-on-Don in Volgograd region, in southwest Russia. For more than 10 years Igor Nagavkin has been working to defend prisoners’ rights, combat torture and corruption, including in police. He was a chairperson of the Volgograd regional organization for social and legal support of prisoners and detainees, expert of the “For Human Rights” movement and of the foundation “In defence of prisoners’ rights”. He was also a member of the expert council under the Russian Ombudsman.
Igor Nagavkin became an HRD after his younger brother died in a prison hospital as a result of untreated appendicitis. Traumatised by this loss, Nagavkin, who had studied law but had not completed his course, started to provide advice and support to prisoners and their families and to draw attention to torture and frequent deaths of inmates in penal colonies and pre-trial detention facilities.
His human rights and anti-corruption activity led to numerous conflicts with the local authorities. In 2011, he was convicted for attempted theft of a car wheel belonging to a local road traffic police officer which allegedly took place in 2010. The court did not take into account that Igor Nagavkin had an alibi – at the moment of attempted theft he was with his family in a café - and ruled that he must pay 15,000 roubles fine.
Igor Nagavkin did not stop his human rights work which led to further conflicts with the authorities. A week before his arrest, he was threatened by the police with a criminal prosecution if he would not stop “his activities against the head of the Kalachev police station, head of the road traffic police and the chairperson of Kalachev court”. Following this threat Igor Nagavkin decided to leave the town for a while but did not have time to do so. On the night of 28 to 29 September 2016 he was arrested and then detained under an accusation of attempted conspiracy to commit theft from a pawn shop. If found guilty, he may spend up to five years in jail. As in the previous case, there are numerous procedural violations and the “evidence” provided by the police appear to be fabricated.
For example, when conducting a search in Nagavkin’s mother’s flat, the police did it in two rooms at the same time passing on things to one another, and the family did not have an opportunity to follow what the police was doing. The family believes that a chain with a cross found in their flat was planted by the police. According to Nagavkin’s partner, during the search of their flat the police was looking on both sides of a wardrobe at the same time and when a police officer distracted Igor’s partner, the other one “found” some jewellery with price tags. The jewellery was later recognised as stolen but from a different pawn shop. There are also inconsistencies between the description of the crime scene by the police officers and the pawn shop owner. The police allege that there was a forced entry into the pawn shop and the plastic door was broken in. However, the shop owner did not confirm the breaking in. The businessman stated that nothing was stolen from his shop and there was no sign of a forced entry. The external metal door and another, wooden door, were locked. He did not mention the plastic door.
Igor Nagavkin has spent more than a year and a half in pre-trial detention even though the crime he is accused of allows for a milder prevention measures like a subscription not to leave his town. At first, he was kept in Volgograd pre-trial detention centre and on 10 April 2017 he was transferred to Butyrka pre-trial detention centre in Moscow under the pretext that one of the co-accused is also a suspect in another crime investigated in Moscow.
Igor Nagavkin has been at least twice on hunger strikes protesting against his detention and inaction of the investigators. On 14 December 2017, before a hearing in the Moscow City Court to decide on extension of his detention, the escort guards stripped him and his co-defendants naked, beaten them up and threatened them with rape by rubber truncheons. Reportedly, the guards also threatened that they would beat Igor Nagavkin every time when he is delivered to the Moscow City Court. Igor Nagavkin complained about the beating to the judge and showed his bruises. However, the judge replied that “it happens”, did not accept the complaint and extended Nagavkin’s detention until 16 March 2018. Neither a prosecutor nor an investigator present in the court room reacted to the complaint either.
Since then Igor Nagavkin’s detention was extended twice: on 13 March and on 12 April 2018. He has already spent more than 18 months in detention which is in violation of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code. The investigation is ongoing.
Amnesty International believes that the case against Igor Nagavkin has been fabricated and he is being persecuted in connection with his lawful human rights work. He must be released immediately and all charges against him must be dropped.