News Brief

Russian Human Rights Activist Jailed For Facebook Post

International human rights groups have demanded that Russia immediately release a 77-year-old rights activist who was sentenced to nearly a month in detention for what the authorities say was an illegal Facebook post.

Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the Russian group “For Human Rights,” was convicted of repeatedly violating Russia’s law limiting public assemblies earlier this week, for posting a call on the social media site for a rally to show solidarity with other activists prosecuted under the country’s “anti-extremism” laws.

The veteran activist, who has now begun his 25-day sentence, is the latest in a long list of Russians to be jailed for their actions online, as part of a wider campaign by the authorities targeting dissident views.

“Lev Ponomarev is one of the pillars of the human rights movement in Russia. With this sentence the Russian authorities have shown their contempt for human rights, punishing a man who has devoted his life to defending them,” said Natalia Zviagina, the Moscow director of human rights group Amnesty International.

“Ponomarev’s jailing shows that in today’s Russia, nothing is off limits for the authorities, not free speech, nor peaceful assembly, nor high-profile human rights defenders, ” said Rachel Denber of the US-based Human Rights Watch group.

The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, added her voice to the calls for Ponomarev’s release.

A former member of Russia’s Duma or parliament, he reportedly sought official approval for the demonstration, and then published the post after permission was denied.

In July, Ponomarev was fined for holding a one-man picket in support of the prosecuted activists. After making his Facebook post, he was charged with committing a “repeated offense”.