Today’s decision by the Russian supreme court ordering the release of Index Freedom of Expression Awards nominee Ildar Dadin is welcome news for freedom of expression in the country.
“Ildar’s courageous defence of free speech and the right to protest are the chief reasons he was chosen from hundreds of nominations for the shortlist of this year’s awards. I am heartened by this ruling. But Russia must go further and repeal the free-speech-stifling public assembly law,” Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship said.
A long-term opposition and LGBT rights activist Dadin was the first, and remains the only, person to be convicted under Russia’s 2014 public assembly law that prohibits the “repeated violation of the order of organising or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or picketing”. Attempting to circumvent this restrictive law, Dadin held a series of one-man pickets against human rights abuses – an enterprise for which he was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2015. In November 2016, website Meduza published a letter smuggled to his wife in which Dadin wrote that he was being tortured and abuse was endemic in Russian jails. The letter, a brave move for a serving prisoner, had wide resonance, prompting a reaction from the government and an investigation. Against his will, Dadin was transferred and disappeared within the Russian prison system until a wave of public protest led to his location being revealed in January 2017.