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Michail Benyash appears in court during his trial in Krasnodar.
Michail Benyash appears in court during his trial in Krasnodar.

A Russian lawyer and human rights activist has been found guilty of attacking police and fined 30,000 rubles ($468) by a Krasnodar court in connection with his detention while he was trying to provide legal advice to protesters being taken into police custody at an anti-government rally a year ago.

Mikhail Benyash had faced up to five years in prison, and investigators were reportedly seeking a larger fine.

International rights group Amnesty International has called the charges against Benyash "politically motivated."

He has spent the past decade working on civil and criminal cases and "has been providing legal assistance to the participants of rallies which were not officially approved," according to Frontline Defenders, a Dublin-based group that seeks to protect "at-risk" human rights defenders.

Benyash was arrested on September 9, 2018, in Krasnodar, where he went to provide legal assistance to participants in an unsanctioned protest during a wave of public rallies against Russian pension reform.

He was initially ordered to spend two weeks in jail in September 2018 for allegedly disobeying police.

Later, he was charged with "using violence against a government official," leading to this latest conviction.

In April, Benyash was ordered to pay around 50,000 rubles in compensation for his time in custody.

Some of more than a dozen fellow lawyers who testified in Benyash's defense linked his case to a perceived escalation of violence by security forces over the past several years in Russia.

The car of a lawyer representing Benyash's defense team's lone witness -- who testified to have seen police mistreatment of Benyash -- was set on fire outside her home in Krasnodar in November 2018.

Frontline Defenders said it believed the arson attack was a reprisal for Lyudmila Aleskandrova's work in cases like Benyash's, involving police abuses.

Investigators claimed Benyash attacked and bit officers in a police vehicle after his detention.

Benyash said it was the other way around, and images shared after he was taken into custody showed multiple abrasions and bruising on his face and arms.

Police said Benyash had inflicted the injuries to himself by slamming his head into the vehicle's windows and trying to escape.

Shahrizat and Shahdiyar Shavkat came to Russia's Tatarstan region to study under a World Tatar Congress program four years ago,
Shahrizat and Shahdiyar Shavkat came to Russia's Tatarstan region to study under a World Tatar Congress program four years ago,

Twin Chinese men facing expulsion from Russia since losing contact with their Uyghur father and Tatar mother in China say they fear being sent to a "concentration camp" if their appeal for refugee status is rejected by Russian authorities.

Twenty-three-year-old Shahrizat and Shahdiyar Shavkat came to Russia's Tatarstan region to study under a World Tatar Congress program four years ago, two years before reports began emerging of roundups in western China and widespread use of "reeducation camps" against Uyghurs and other minorities.

Now, the young men are awaiting a ruling from Tatarstan's Supreme Court following a lower court's rejection several months ago of their refugee applications.

Shahrizat told RFE/RL that he was certain that, upon arrival in China, he and his brother "would be taken to a concentration camp because we are Muslim Tatars."

The U.S. State Department estimates that more than 1 million Uyghurs and other minorities have been interned in a network of Chinese reeducation camps in recent years.

Russia has avoided criticism of China's treatment of its Uyghur minority despite reports of sweeps and massive numbers of detentions of members of that mostly Muslim, ethnic Turkic minority.

Tatarstan, home to a large Tatar population, is one of several mostly Muslim federal subjects in Russia.

The twins moved to Russia to study at Kazan Federal University in Tatarstan's capital in 2015 but lost contact two years later with their Chinese Uyghur father and their Soviet-born, naturalized Chinese mother.

Both young men were expelled from school for failing to make payments for their studies, according to their lawyer, Zuhra Hamroyeva.

Hamroyeva told RFE/RL that she was meeting with university officials on October 11 in an effort to somehow get them reenrolled.

Relatives have told the Shavkats that they believe Chinese authorities forcibly interned their parents.

On October 8, Washington announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials thought to be involved in the internment measures.

That followed U.S. export restrictions the day before targeting facial-recognition technology and other products that could help Chinese authorities spy on their citizens.

Beijing has pursued Chinese Uyghurs abroad, too, successfully arguing in recent years for their repatriation from a handful of countries, from Malaysia to Egypt.

In September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all countries to reject Beijing's demands to repatriate ethnic Uyghurs to China.

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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