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Court upholds Mikhail Savva's suspended sentence

posted 3 Oct 2014, 13:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Oct 2014, 13:47 ]
1 Oct 2014 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group 

The Krasnodar Regional court yesterday upheld the 3-year suspended sentence for fraud handed to Mikhail Savva, human rights activist, professor at Kuban State University and Director of Grant Programmes at the Southern Regional Resource Centre, reports Kavkazsky Uzel, citing Marina Dubrovina, lawyer for the activist. The appeals by Savva and Dubrovina were rejected and the sentence came into force. 

Savva plans to lodge further appeals against the decision, his lawyer added. 

Earlier, Savva had said that he did not believe he would receive a fair trial. He claimed that the court's decision was merely the next stage of the process, "after which an appeal could be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights and, in parallel, with Russia's Supreme Court." The convicted human rights activist believes that his case is related to his criticism of the inspection of NGOs in March 2013. The Memorial Human Rights Centre has included Savva in their list of political prisoners. 

"I was hoping that the judicial authorities would be reasonable and acquit Savva, since throughout his human right activities he has demonstrated that he is an honest man. So many people spoke up for him and petitioned for him, including the Presidential Council for Human Rights. It's very sad," Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, Director of the Agency for Social Information and member of the Human Rights Council, told Novye Izvestiya. She also expressed the hope that the human rights activist would be exonerated by the higher courts. 

"The Supreme Court understands that if it fails to come to the correct decision, then the ECHR will put it right, and that's disagreeable, which is why we are hopeful," Lev Ponomarev, head of the all-Russia movement For Human Rights and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, who has been actively involved in Savva's case, told Novye Izvestiya. 

The criminal case against Mikhail Savva was opened in April 2013. According to investigators, in 2012 the human rights activist stole a budget grant of 366,00 roubles intended for the implementation of the Building Peace programme and also in his capacity as professor at Kuban State University during the period September 2012 to February 2013 misappropriated 72,000 roubles (payment for a course of lectures he did not give). From April to December 2013 Savva was held in a pre-trial detention centre. He was then unexpectedly released and put under house arrest instead. In April the court found Savva guilty under Part 1 of Article 159 ("Fraud") and Part 3 of Article 159.2 ("Large-scale fraud through receipt of payments using one's official position") of the Russian Criminal Code.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey