Russia: Conviction of librarian for holding ‘extremist books’ demonstrates utter contempt for rule of law
The conviction of Natalya Sharina, former Director of the state-run Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, for holding ‘extremist books’ demonstrates utter contempt for the rule of law and highlights flaws in the independence of Russia’s judiciary, said Amnesty International today.
Natalya Sharina was found guilty of ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘embezzlement’ and handed a four years suspended sentence by the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow. She was arrested in October 2015 after works by Ukrainian nationalist Dmytro Korchynsky were found in an unindexed pile of books in the library she headed. Korchynsky’s works are officially banned in Russia and the books were defined as ‘extremist’ and ‘anti-Russian propaganda’ by the prosecutor.
“This highly politicized case runs totally counter to justice, and highlights serious flaws in the independence of Russia’s judiciary. Natalya Sharina should not have been prosecuted, still less convicted,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
“The prosecution has exploited the highly charged anti-Ukrainian atmosphere that is prevalent in Russia at the moment, while the court simply dismissed key evidence for the defence, including testimonies that police officers were seen planting the banned books at the library.”
During her trial, the state prosecutor accused Natalya Sharina of promoting Ukrainian nationalism, saying it ‘goes hand-in-hand with German fascism’.
Amnesty International regards both charges to be unfounded and politically motivated, and considers that Natalya Sharina is a victim of a travesty of justice.
Natalya Sharina was detained on 28 October 2015 and spent a year and seven months under house arrest before being brought to trial.
The embezzlement charge was added in April 2016 when she was accused of the misappropriation of library funds to pay for a lawyer to defend her during a previous unfounded attempt to prosecute in 2011 – 2013.