Update: RSF has finally decided not to refer this case to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in order not to prejudice other avenues of legal recourse available to the defence.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the immediate release of well-known Russian newspaper editor Igor Rudnikov, arrested exactly one year ago today and still awaiting trial, and asks the United Nations to recognize the arbitrary nature of his detention.
The editor of the now-closed weekly Novye Kolesa in Russia’s western enclave of Kaliningrad, Rudnikov has been held for the past year on a clearly trumped-up charge of extortion. An order was issued on 26 September extending his preventive detention by another six months.
“A year after his arrest, it is high time to end the injustice to which Igor Rudnikov is being subjected,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The persecution of this journalist and his colleagues is one more example of the crackdown on independent media outlets in Russia. We urge the UN to demand his immediate and unconditional release.”
Rudnikov’s hard-hitting reporting had elicited two murder attempts and many lawsuits and prosecutions in the past. Hounded on all sides, Novye Kolesa, the Kaliningrad region’s leading independent newspaper, was finally forced to close in April.
The violence to which Rudnikov was subjected when arrested on 1 November 2017 has never been investigated, although members of the Federal Security Service (FSB) can be heard in a video telling a superior they gave him a good beating.
Rudnikov is charged with trying to extort money from Gen. Victor Ledenev, a senior Kaliningrad police officer who had been the target of some of Novye Kolesa’s investigative reporting. The complete lack of hard evidence and the many procedural flaws reported by Rudnikov’s lawyers confirm that he is the victim of a politically-motivated reprisal.
Given the absence of any progress in the proceedings against Rudnikov during the past year, RSF is asking the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – which is responsible for determining whether cases of detention comply with international law and which reports to the UN Human Rights Council – to recognize the arbitrary nature of Rudnikov’s detention and to take it up with the Russian authorities.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.